By Matt Ayres
April 19th saw the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law, an unspoken agreement between the electronics industry and the world economy that inspires engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs to think about what is possible.
Micro-chips are built with tiny electrical switches made of purified silicon called transistors, and in 1975 Gordon Moore stated that the number of these transistors would double every two years. The law has held true up to now.
This doubling of the number of transistors has led to computer chips that could be packed with increasingly sophisticated circuitry that was both energy efficient and cheap. This led to the widespread adoption of computers, mobile phones, and the information technology revolution.
Looking forward from its 50th anniversary, there are tell-tale signs that Moore’s Law is slowing down, and it is a near certainty that the law will cease to hold within a decade. With further miniaturisation silicon transistors will attain dimensions of the order of only a handful of atoms and the laws of physics dictate that the transistors and electronic circuits will cease to work efficiently at that point. But as Moore’s Law’s slows down, innovations in other areas, such as developments in software, will pick up the slack in the short-term.