Profile: The Law of More; The Solid-State Century; Scientific American Presents; by Gibbs; 2 Page(s)
Technologists are given to public displays of unbridled enthusiasm about the prospects of their inventions. So a reader flipping through the 35th anniversary issue of Electronics in April 1965 might easily have dismissed an article by Gordon E. Moore, then head of research at Fairchild Semiconductor, pitching the future of his business. Moore observed that the most cost-effective integrated circuits had roughly doubled in complexity each year since 1959; they now contained a whopping 50 transistors per chip. At that rate, he projected, microchips would contain 65,000 components by 1975, at only a modest increase in price. "Integrated circuits," Moore wrote, "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."
Technically, Moore was overoptimistic: 65,000-transistor chips did not appear until 1981. But his fundamental insight-that continued geometric growth in the complexity of microelectronics would be not only feasible but also profitable-held true for so long that others began referring to it as Moore's Law. Today, from his vantage point as chairman emeritus of Intel, Moore observes that his prediction "has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. [Chipmakers] know they have to stay on that curve to remain competitive, so they put the effort in to make it happen."