Moore’s Law is dead, but few will mourn it

15 Feb 2016

Moore’s Law, which has characterised the semiconductor business for decades, is to be officially laid to rest in an industry that can’t keep up with the law which has governed it.

Having first been theorised by Intel’s co-founder, Gordon E Moore, in 1965, Moore’s Law stated that the power of semiconductors and chips would double in capacity every year, ushering in a new revolution in computing power.

Despite a slight revising of the law in 1975 to change it to a doubling every two years, the law has been followed by the industry for decades, until now.

According to Nature, the reality is that semiconductors are reaching a developmental point where a doubling of its capacity is proving almost impossible as more and more components are crammed onto silicon chips.

So, while these latest chips are proving troublesome for manufacturers in terms of the excessive heat they generate, the industry’s developmental road map to be released next month will, for the first time, not be based on Moore’s Law.

‘More than Moore’

In its place, the industry is expected to chart what some are calling the ‘More than Moore’ strategy, which will shy away from developing faster processors for app developers to avail of, but will rather see what apps are being developed and develop chips to suit them.

To put it into figures, the most advanced processors on the market measure only 14 nanometres across but, by the 2020s, Moore’s Law would state that they would reach a stage of measuring only two or three nanometres across, which would render them completely unreliable at that size.

However, while the idea exists that the death of Moore’s Law will be something akin to the end of the antibiotic era, those in the industry do not see this being the death knell for progress.

“Think about what happened to aeroplanes,” said computer scientist Daniel Reed. “A Boeing 787 doesn’t go any faster than a 707 did in the 1950s — but they are very different airplanes.”

This, of course, references the changing technological features within the plane, such as guidance technology and passenger comfort.

He went on to say that: “Innovation will absolutely continue — but it will be more nuanced and complicated.”

Semiconductor image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic