Gordon Moore, the electronics world owes you a debt of gratitude
Moore’s law has defined the way we use technology, fueled the semiconductor innovation race, and created the most sophisticated supply chain in the world.
Intel and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announced Friday that company co-founder Gordon Moore passed away at 94. The foundation reported he died peacefully on Friday, March 24, 2023, surrounded by family at his home in Hawaii.
“Gordon Moore defined the technology industry through his insight and vision. He was instrumental in revealing the power of transistors and inspired technologists and entrepreneurs across the decades.” Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO, said, “We at Intel remain inspired by Moore’s Law and intend to pursue it until the periodic table is exhausted.”
Nothing more than Moore’s 1965 article “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits.” has had more influence on the history of the semiconductor industry and the digital revolution.
“Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers or at least terminals connected to a central computer — automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment.” wrote Moore, “The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year. Certainly, over the short term, this rate can be expected to continue, if not increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000.”
The term “Moore’s Law” is attributed to Carven Mead, a CalTech professor who worked alongside Moore during the time and was a frequent visitor at Fairchild Semiconductor.
In 1968, Mead demonstrated, contrary to common assumptions, that as transistors decreased in size, they would not become more fragile, hotter, expensive, or slower. Instead, he argued that transistors would get faster, better, cooler, and cheaper as shrinking. Mead’s prediction influenced the computer industry’s development of submicron technology.
He predicted that chips might eventually contain 100 million transistors per square centimeter. Today, the most advanced fabs can squeeze a hundred times as many transistors on a chip than even Mead thought possible.
Moore’s law was declared dead on several occasions
Gordon Moore’s law is only a prediction, not a law of physics. In 1975, Moore revised his estimate to double transistors on an integrated circuit every two years for the next ten years. The idea of semiconductors growing exponentially, continually making electronics faster, smaller, and cheaper, became the driving force behind the industry and paved the way for using chips in millions of everyday products.
Back in 1988, Erich Bloch, the former head of the National Science Foundation, working at IBM at the time, predicted that Moore’s Law would end when transistors shrank to a quarter of a micron. Even Moore, during a presentation in 2003, worried that “business as usual will certainly bump up against barriers in the next decade or so.” No Exponential is Forever, but ‘Forever’ Can be Delayed. Gordon Moore, IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference, 2003.
Some of the most influential leaders in the semiconductor and internet industries think that Moore’s law is already dead. According to Nvidia’s Jensen Huang and Alphabet (Google) chairman John Hennessy, the laws of physics will make it impossible to shrink transistors further. Another reason, they argue, is that it is becoming too expensive to manufacture leading-edge semiconductors today.
However, Moore’s Law resilience has surprised Gordon More and Carver Mead, the CalTech computer scientist who coined the term.
“The end of Moore’s Law would be devastating for the semiconductor industry — and for the world.” Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology by Chris Miller.
Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary
In his book “Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary,” author David Brock called him “the most important thinker and doer in the story of silicon electronics.”
In 2022, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger announced renaming the Ronler Acres campus in Oregon — where Intel teams develop future process technologies — to Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres. The RA4 building, home to much of Intel’s Technology Development Group, was also renamed The Moore Center along with its café, The Gordon.
“I can think of no better way to honor Gordon and the profound impact he’s had on this company than by bestowing his name on this campus,” Gelsinger said at the event. “I hope we did you proud today, Gordon. And the world thanks you.”
Gordon Moore received the National Medal of Technology from President George H.W. Bush in 1990, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in 2002.
Most of the technology we use today is based on Gordon Moore’s achievements and foresight. RIP