Saturday, June 10, 2017

Moore's Law for Transistors

Moore's law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. The observation is named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, whose 1965 paper described a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit, and projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another decade. In 1975, looking forward to the next decade, he revised the forecast to doubling every two years. The period is often quoted as 18 months because of Intel executive David House, who predicted that chip performance would double every 18 months (being a combination of the effect of more transistors and the transistors being faster).

Moore's prediction proved accurate for several decades, and has been used in the semiconductor industry to guide long-term planning and to set targets for research and development. Advancements in digital electronics are strongly linked to Moore's law: quality-adjusted microprocessor prices, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. Digital electronics has contributed to world economic growth in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Moore's law describes a driving force of technological and social change, productivity, and economic growth.

Moore's law is an observation or projection and not a physical or natural law. Although the rate held steady from 1975 until around 2012, the rate was faster during the first decade. In general, it is not logically sound to extrapolate from the historical growth rate into the indefinite future. For example, the 2010 update to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, predicted that growth would slow around 2013, and in 2015 Gordon Moore foresaw that the rate of progress would reach saturation: "I see Moore's law dying here in the next decade or so."

Intel stated in 2015 that the pace of advancement has slowed, starting at the 22 nm feature width around 2012, and continuing at 14 nm. Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, announced that "our cadence today is closer to two and a half years than two." This is scheduled to hold through the 10 nm width in late 2017. He cited Moore's 1975 revision as a precedent for the current deceleration, which results from technical challenges and is "a natural part of the history of Moore's law."

However, in April 2016, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stated that "In my 34 years in the semiconductor industry, I have witnessed the advertised death of Moore’s Law no less than four times. As we progress from 14 nanometer technology to 10 nanometer and plan for 7 nanometer and 5 nanometer and even beyond, our plans are proof that Moore’s Law is alive and well". In January 2017, he declared that "I've heard the death of Moore's law more times than anything else in my career," Krzanich said. "And I'm here today to really show you and tell you that Moore's Law is alive and well and flourishing."

Today, hardware has to be designed in a multi-core manner to keep up with Moore's law. In turn, this also means that software has to be written in a multi-threaded manner to take full advantage of the hardware.

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