Moore’s Law – It’s about Embracing the Business Opportunity

Gordon Moore's 1965 Graphic

Gordon Moore’s 1965 Graphic about technology doubling

I love pondering about the last 50 years of computing innovation. Although I knew nothing about technology in the mid-sixties when Gordon Moore observed that the number of components for integrated functions doubles every 12 months, it has been a guideline influencing literally millions of subsequent business choices that have been made by vendors and end-users alike for much of that period of time.

Now the curious thing is that Gordon Moore changed his projected timeframe to 24 months in the mid-seventies, at the very beginning of the first gen of the multi-purpose CPU revolution (refer to the general purpose CPU, the Intel 8080) since he realized that building multi-purpose CPUs was a much bigger undertaking than the function-level integrated circuits (refer to single-function chips like the 7400 Series) that were the state of the art until that point.

Wait, in 1965 Gordon Moore said component counts double every “12 months”  and then when big bad chips (like the 8080) were in their infancy ten years later he said the doubling rate had slowed to “24 months” and yet everything you and I read today quotes “Moore’s Law” (which really isn’t a LAW at all) as a doubling every “18 months”. What gives? Well, marketing does. Some clever marketing soul realized that the only way to make the facts and the fiction ‘kind of align’ was to take the average… 18 months in this case. It was believable, defendable, and has stood the test of time (with just a bit of hand-waving required).

Transisitor Counts for CPUs

Transistor Counts for CPUs has loosely followed Gordon Moore’s observation

So, does it really matter which number is more accurate? No, not really. The point is that every year or two, most technology things double in capacity AND half in cost at the component level. Servers become twice as capable every couple of years. Network transport doubles too. And when you compound this effect over any reasonable period of time, it becomes staggering. In fact, we store more information in one day today then we did in all of the 1980’s. Most importantly, we don’t build technology for technology’s sake, we do so to access the VALUE of all of this information, which doubles too!

And with technologies like the Internet of Things and Software-Defined networking and storage, the rate of this doubling is accelerating. We as an industry are like a veracious animal, feeding on information with nothing but opportunity and creativity to guide us.  The social experience is getting your 3 year old daughter and your 93-year old grandmother into the game too. And all of it is made possible with the new generation of Information Technology which is doubling per the curve. Not the IT that existed when Gordon made his observations, but the IT that sits in your hand right now and is connected to the world. Keep in mind that the Facebook main screen that you probably looked at this morning during your first cup of coffee actually consists of a hundred or more applications working together, each driving some portion of your experience. Each app communicating with the others to bring you a rich, fun and VALUABLE experience. That is why we all do what we do in the tech industry, that’s where it all shines, and that is why this doubling concept is so essential.

At the end of the day, there are massive transformations of near every sector of business happening to take advantage of this new IT. Finally, the business is driving technology. Finance and Education, Government and Aerospace, Entertainment and Internet… the most successful businesses are re-tooling themselves to embrace and leverage these new technologies knowing that everything they do today will be HALF of what their opportunity is next year.

Thanks Gordon…

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Mark Harris Fremont, CA
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One Response to Moore’s Law – It’s about Embracing the Business Opportunity

  1. Jason Lackey says:

    Now things are getting pretty interesting with respect to Moore’s Law as materials science and physics start to bump up against the increasingly fine litho processes needed to deliver those every increasing transistor counts. Sure, up until now the production guys have always found ways around the various barriers that have come up and even very clueful people have called the end of Moore’s Law more than once but eventually physics starts to be a real issue. What’s next, germanium?

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