We Want Moore

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With unit cost falling as the number of components per circuit rises, by 1975 economics may dictate squeezing as many as 65 000 components on a single silicon chip.

The future of integrated electronics is the future of electronics itself. The advantages of integration will bring about a proliferation of electronics, pushing this science into many new areas

Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers—or at least terminals connected to a central computer—automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment. The electronic wristwatch needs only a display to be feasible today.

But the biggest potential lies in the production of large systems. In telephone communications, integrated circuits in digital filters will separate channels on multiplex equipment. Integrated circuits will also switch telephone circuits and perform data processing.

Computers will be more powerful, and will be organized in completely different ways. For example, memories built of integrated electronics may be distributed throughout the machine instead of being concentrated in a central unit. In addition, the improved reliability made possible by integrated circuits will allow the construction of larger processing units. Machines similar to those in existence today will be built at lower costs and with faster turnaround.

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This is what Gordon Moore wrote and published(1) 50 years ago, on April 19, 1965. Reading it now, you can reasonably ask: Can the future be predicted? Apparently, Gordon could. He had been asked by Electronics Magazine to do so and predict what was going to happen in the semiconductor industry over the next ten years. Cartoonists made fun of his predictions:

Moore’s prediction sounded so ludicrous that cartoonists made fun of it by taking his prediction to its extreme—it implied that someday consumers would buy their own hand-held computers, and even being able to buy them in a department store. (Richard A. Muller, “Physics and Technology for Future Presidents: An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know”)

But Moore didn’t wait for the future to materialize. He wanted to make sure that the future happened as he had predicted. In July 1968, he and Robert Noyce founded NM Electronics which later became Intel Corporation. The rest is history, 50 years of digital history… and counting!

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(1) Gordon E. Moore, “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits”, Electronics Magazine 38 (8): 114–117. April 19, 1965

Featured Image: Ibid. The cartoon appeared in the original paper

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