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Moore's Law is 40

Gordon speaks his law

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Gordon Moore, emeritus chairman and co-founder of Intel, is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his eponymous law this week.

Speaking via conference call from Hawaii, Moore said he was surprised his predictions have lasted so long. In 1965, while research director at Fairchild Semiconductor, Moore wrote an article for Electronics Magazine outlining the theory which would become known as Moore's Law, and has set the pace for a generation of IT development. The main theme of the article was that integrated circuits would lead to cheaper electronics. Moore noted that at the time the main customer was the US military - a "cost-insensitive market". Intel is offering $10,000 for an original copy of the magazine.

Moore said: "I looked back and saw we'd about doubled every year so I extrapolated that for 10 years, from 60 circuits to 60,000. Frankly I didn't expect to be so precise - it was much more precise than it had any reason to be.

"In 1975 I went back and saw things breaking down in three ways: denser packing of circuits onto chips, bigger chips and better squeezing of spare space on the chip. There was no space left after '75 so I suggested that we'd be able to double the number of circuits every two years. We've stayed on that for 30 years - it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I'm amazed we've managed exponential growth for so long."

Moore credited Intel exec David House for pointing out that the theory meant a doubling of computing power every 18 months - the usual definition of Moore's law.

Asked how long he thought his law would last Moore said: "Nothing like this can last for ever - but certainly for the next two or three generations, which is as long as I've ever been able to see. It will be 10 to 20 years before we meet the fundamental limits."

Moore remains sceptical that nanotechnology will replace the silicon chip. He said: "Integrated circuits have spent $100bn on R&D so there's catching up to do. And silicon is approaching the 100 nanometres which is one definition for nanotechnology."

Asked if he had another law to predict developments for the next 40 years Moore said he was happy to rest on his laurels.®

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