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Issue No.03 - July-September (2006 vol.28)
pp: 62-75
Ethan Mollick , MIT Sloan School of Management
Every field has brief formulas or relationships that are useful for back-of-the-envelope calculations. Rarely do these maxims become popular knowledge; even more rarely do they become as ubiquitous and influential as Moore's law, the 40-year-old prediction that the speed of computers will double every year or two. Here, a look at the way in which the legendary law evolved into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
history of computing, the computer industry, Moore's law, Gordon Moore
Ethan Mollick, "Establishing Moore's Law", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.28, no. 3, pp. 62-75, July-September 2006, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2006.45
1. See, for example, D. MacKenzie, Knowing Machines, MIT Press, 1996, for a discussion of Moore's law as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. M.S. Malone, "Chips Triumphant," Forbes ASAP, Feb. 1996, p. 70.
3. G.E. Moore, "Progress in Digital Electronics," Technical Digest of the Int'l Electron Devices Meeting, IEEE Press, 1975, p. 13.
4. M.S. Malone, "Chips Triumphant," p. 68. Eighteen months is the standard time given in recent publications, both technical and nontechnical. See, for example, T. Lewis, "The Next 10,0002 Years: Part II, Computer, May 1996), p. 78.
5. P.K. Bondyopadhyay, "Moore's Law Governs the Silicon Revolution," Proc. IEEE, vol. 86, no. 1, Jan. 1998 pp. 78–81.
6. R. Schaller, "Moore's Law: Past, Present, and Future," IEEE Spectrum, June 1997, pp. 52–59.
7. D. McKenzie, Knowing Machines, chapter 3, pp. 49–66.
8. Although the 1965 and 1975 papers are generally considered the critical papers on Moore's law, I have included Moore's 1995 work since it contains the technical material on which he has based all of his recent interviews and presentations.
9. G.E. Moore, "Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits," Electronics, vol. 38, no. 8, 1965, pp. 114–117.
10. G. Moore, personal interview with author, 17 Dec. 1996.
11. G.E. Moore, "Progress in Digital Electronics," 1975, p. 11.
12. G.E. Moore, "Progress in Digital Electronics," 1975, pp. 11–12.
13. G.E. Moore, "Progress in Digital Electronics," 1975, p. 12.
14. See for example, J.G. Linvill and C.L. Hogan, "Intellectual and Economic Fuel for the Electronics Revolution," Science,28 Mar. 1978, p. 1107, which uses the faulty prediction.
15. G. Moore, personal interview with author, 16 Feb. 2005.
16. R.N. Noyce, "Large Scale Integration: What Is Yet to Come," Science, vol. 195, 18 Mar. 1977, pp. 1103–1105. In Scientific Am., this graph is simplified, but it uses the same slope as the Science graph; see p. 37.
17. G. Moore, "VLSI: Some Fundamental Challenges," IEEE Spectrum, April 1979, p. 32.
18. G. Moore, personal interview conducted by R. Schaller, 13 June 1996.
19. I was unable to find precise transistor counts of the most complex chips from those years, but Moore's article makes it clear that the number of transistors was less than what was expected.
20. T. Forester ed., The Microelectronics Revolution, MIT Press, 1981, p. 29.
21. Noyce wrote: "We have yet to see any significant departure from Moore's law"; R. Noyce, "Microelectronics," The Microelectronics Revolution, T. Forester, ed., p. 34.
22. Some data courtesy of M. Iansiti, Harvard Business School, the rest gathered by the author.
23. Note that the 26-month doubling time differs from some published versions of the law. Eighteen months is the number given in much of the popular press, but no authors that I spoke to could trace this number back to its original source. Intel's Web site gives "18 to 24 months," a range that is close to the 26-month cycle.
24. The SSI version in Moore's original paper lasted from 1959 until 1966, when the gap in Moore's graphs begin. The MSI/LSI version as developed in 1975 lasted from approximately 1968 until 1976, ending with the failure of CCDs.
25. US Office of Microelectronics and Instrumentation (OMI), A Competitive Assessment of the US Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment Industry, US Document Printing House, 1985, p. 60.
26. M.S. Malone, The Microprocessor: A Biography, Springer-Verlag, 1994, p. 69.
27. G.D. Hutchenson and J.D. Hutchenson,"Technology and Economics in the Semiconductor Industry," Scientific Am., Jan. 1996, p. 55.
28. R. Zaks, From Chips to Systems, Sybex, 1981, p. 23.
29. D. Manners and T. Makimoto, Living with the Chip, Chapman & Hall, 1995, pp. 102–103.
30. "Processes of the Future," Solid State Technology, vol. 38, no. 2, 1995, p. 42.
31. M. Iansiti, Technology Integration: Making Critical Choices in a Dynamic World, Harvard Business School Press, 1998, pp. VII–10.
32. H. Gruber, "The Learning Curve in the Production of Semiconductor Memory Chips," Applied Economics, vol. 24, no. 8, 1992.
33. M. Iansiti, personal interview with author, 7 Dec. 1996.
34. N.S. Dorfman, Innovation and Market Structure, Ballinger, 1987, p. 213.
35. H. Queisser, The Conquest of the Microchip, Diane Crawford-Burkhardt, trans., Harvard Univ. Press, 1988, p. 112.
36. W.R. Boulton, E.S. Meieran, and R.R. Tummala, "Japan's Product Development Strategy," Electronic Manufacturing and Packaging in Japan, Japanese Technology Evaluation Center 1994;
37. H. Gruber, Learning and Strategic Product Innovation, North-Holland, 1994, p. 82.
38. Economist Harald Gruber developed a product-process matrix that models the advantages and distinguishing characteristics of these differing approaches in the semiconductor industry. Gruber, Learning and Strategic Product Innovation, pp. 82–95.
39. The president of Nippon Telephone and Telegraph stated in 1974 that Japan was behind the US by three years in VLSI technology. M. Anchordoguy, Computers Inc. Harvard Univ. Press, 1989, p. 139.
40. See K. Flamm, Mismanaged Trade?, The Brookings Institution, 1996, p. 98, for a list of statements on the importance of the VLSI program.
41. Electronics Panel of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), The Competitive Status of the US Electronics Industry, Nat'l Academy Press, November 1989 p. 48.
42. M.G. Borrus, Competing for Control, Ballinger, 1988, p. 147.
43. This is often attributed to the so-called learning curve, in which costs fall as experience producing a chip increases. In fact, economies of scale, in which higher levels of production result in greater efficiency, cause this effect.
44. D. I. Okimoto, T. Sugano, and F.B. Weinstein eds., Competitive Edge, Stanford Univ. Press., 1984, p. 48.
45. "A Chance for US Memories," Business Week,15 Mar. 1982, pp. 126–127.
46. G. Dosi, , Technical Change and Industrial Transformation, St. Martin's Press, 1984, pp. 272–275.
47. See, for example, R.W. Wilson, P.K. Ashton, and T.P. Egan, Innovation, Competition, and Government Policy in the Semiconductor Industry, Charles River Associates, 1984, pp. 34–35.
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