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What is Moore's Law?

 , updated on December 02, 2020
Moore's Law is the prediction that the speed of computer processors doubles every 18 months.
It is based on a 1965 prediction by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors in a processor doubles every year. The prediction was revised to doubling every two years in 1975 and remained remarkably accurate for several decades.
The more commonly quoted definition of Morre's Law is that processor speed doubles every 18 months. This version accounts for the improvement in the speed of transistors together with the doubling of their numbers.
The improvements in processor speeds and associated declines in cost for processing sparked an information technology revolution that transformed the world beginning in the 1960s. Information technology continues to transform governments, industry, society and culture and is likely to be amongst the defining characteristics of our age.

Space Shuttle Example

The Space Shuttle program is often used as an example of Moore's Law. The first Space Shuttle launched in 1981 featured computers capable of 480,000 instructions per second. Common smart phones are now capable of billions of instructions per second. The Space Shuttle Atlantis, the last shuttle to launch in 2011 only had a small percentage of the computing power of a laptop at the time. The computers weren't upgraded to current standards because they were valued for their reliability.

Limits to Moore's Law

It can't continue forever. The nature of exponentials is that you push them out and eventually disaster happens.
~ Gordon Moore
Some observers claim that Moore's Law has begun to break down due to the high cost of R&D, manufacturing and test costs. This is not viewed as a technical limitation, although it is anticipated that miniaturization of current technologies may reach limits around 2030 as transistors approach atomic size.

Selected Examples

The following are a few examples of processor capacity that demonstrate Moore's law. Keep in mind that this list includes both supercomputers and processors for relatively inexpensive consumer devices.
SystemYearMillion Operations Per Second
IBM 7030 (supercomputer)19611.2
Intel 400419710.09
Cray 1 (supercomputer)1975160
Intel 808019740.145
IBM System 370 (mainframe)19770.730
Intel 803519806
Intel 28619821.28
ARM219864
Motorola 6803019879
Namco System 21 (arcade system)198873
Intel i486DX19898.7
ARM7199440
Intel Pentium1994188
Intel Pentium Pro1996541
Intel Pentium III19992,054
ARM Cortex-M32004125
Intel Core 2 Extreme200649,161
Intel Core i7 920200882,300
Intel Core i7 2600K2011176,170
Intel Core i7 5960X2014298,190
AMD Ryzen Threadripper20202,356,230
Apple A1220195,000,000
Apple A14202011,000,000
Fugaku (supercomputer)2021442,000,000,000
Overview: Moores Law
Type
Definition (1)
The prediction that the speed of computer processors doubles every 18 months.
Definition (2)
The prediction that the number of transistors on commercially available processors doubles every 2 years.
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