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Moore's Law On Hold?

Moore’s Law has become a foundational assumption in modern business and economic thought: that computer chip capacity will double every 2 years is an article of faith among singularity buffs and other technophiles.

Think again: scientists now say progress could slow.

The problem is not that they cannot squeeze more transistors onto the chips — they surely can — but instead, like a city that cannot provide electricity for its entire streetlight system, that all those transistors could require too much power to run economically. They could overheat, too. The upshot could be that the gadget-crazy populace, accustomed to a retail drumbeat of breathtaking new products, may have to accept next-generation electronics that are only modestly better than their predecessors, rather than exponentially faster, cheaper and more wondrous.

We’ll see.  A slowdown in chip speed might just shift more resources toward more efficient software that makes better use of the power we’ve got.  And this is not the first time Moore’s Law has been challenged.

Stay tuned.

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  • Marcus V

    Moore’s Law as it’s thought of today– which is actually an elaboration on what Moore said, not just his words as gospel– is a little more subtle than “Make transistors smaller! Make them faster!”

    It’s not (necessarily) about transistors, it’s about processing power; and it’s not just about processing power, but processing power per unit cost.

    The death of Moore’s Law was hailed when transistors stopped getting twice as fast every 24 months, but processing power per unit cost has still been dropping accordingly. That’s the important part, and while there are some limits on that metric as well, the article didn’t really speak to them at all.

  • M. Simon


    A new way of designing chips is required. We need chips that don’t use any power while they are waiting for something to happen. And that do not use much power when something happens.

    There is such a chip.

    More computing power than a desktop computer and it uses about 1 tenth (0.1) of a watt at full clip.

    The current version is optimized for control applications. There is no reason a desktop version (or an array of these chips) couldn’t be used for a desktop machine. Even better would be using them in a laptop. The battery might last days.

  • Luke Lea

    Trends that can’t go on forever don’t. Besides heat not speed is the bigger issue today.

  • M. Simon

    I was in error the chip does over 90 B(illion)IPS and uses 650 mw (that is a little over six tenths of a watt) and microwatts if completely idle. And what ever in between is needed to get the job done.

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