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Moore's Law for multiple generations

The "law" soon had to be revised, to the doubling being every 18 months, and now often stated as a doubling every two years, as diminishing returns were reached. The Law is not really about the physics of chips. According to this historical review of computing, the law applies back through the technological generations of transistors, vacuum tubes, and electromechanical computers of the late 19th century. It's a law about what efforts we will go to - and pay for - to get faster information processing. The law has a corollary stated that the price of chip factories doubles every four years. Once just millions, chip fabs now cost over 10 billion dollars each and can only be paid for with sales of at least a hundred million chips of each model. It's anybody's guess how long they can keep shrinking the technology in the lab; but the industry will stop when not enough people buy the product to pay for 20 or 50 billion dollar factories. They will soon need sales in the billions of chips per model just to keep going.

© Roy Brander, P.Eng 2008