What is Moore's Law?
Moore's Law is an observation about the growing complexity of computer processors. It is named after Gordon E. Moore, who put forth his theory back in 1965.
Moore, who was later co-founder of Intel, said in a paper that the number of transistors on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit, or microchip, was invented in 1958. Moore predicted that the trend would continue "for at least 10 years."
In 1975, he recalculated the period of doubling to every two years. Since then, the pace has slowed a bit, and now data density has continued to double about every 18 months. Moore's Law has been amended, with Moore's blessing, to include this new time frame.
The chart below shows how this growth has steadily gone over the past 30 years. Starting with basic models in 1971 — including the RCA 1802 — there have been a number of advances over the years, including Pentium, AMD, and, eventually, the introduction of the Core models, going from six to 16.
Moore's Law is not just limited to computer systems, as game consoles — such as the PlayStation 4 — are playing their part as well, with its Cell architecture, powered by the x86-64, which is used in a number of high-end PCs.
A number of factors play a part in Moore's Law, including processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and supplementary equipment, such as microphones (for sound clarity) and the pixel usage in digital cameras. Digital electronics as a whole have been on the rise over the past few years, fitting in with the two-year (or "18 month") movement in progress.
But there is a thought that, by the end of this year, the cycle could possibly change, going from to a span of three years, probably due to maximum levels reached within current technology. This is according to a 2010 update to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which still shows room for growth, though not as expedient.
To keep the rise of technology steady, a secondary Moore's law, dubbed "Rock's law" (named for Arthur Rock) keeps in balance in terms of capital cost of a semiconductor fab. It increases as well, depending on the substances used for their development, as well as cost and supply — usually about every four years.
Still, the fact that Moore could put such a theory together and it continues to keep such a steady pace nearly 50 years after its initial writing is a stunning feat. And with the way that technology continues to diversify — 3D televisions, Nintendo's GamePad-powered Wii U game console, the next model of PC hardware and Microsoft's upcoming "Xbox Next" console — it's got nowhere to go but up.