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The end of Moore’s Law

Tim Cross over at The Guardian has an interesting piece on how Moore’s Law is bumping against the realities of physics and business:

Shrinking a chip’s components gets harder each time you do it, and with modern transistors having features measured in mere dozens of atoms, engineers are simply running out of room. There have been roughly 22 ticks of Moore’s law since the launch of the 4004 in 1971 through to mid-2016. For the law to hold until 2050 means there will have to be 17 more, in which case those engineers would have to figure out how to build computers from components smaller than an atom of hydrogen, the smallest element there is. That, as far as anyone knows, is impossible.

Yet business will kill Moore’s law before physics does, for the benefits of shrinking transistors are not what they used to be. Moore’s law was given teeth by a related phenomenon called “Dennard scaling” (named for Robert Dennard, an IBM engineer who first formalised the idea in 1974), which states that shrinking a chip’s components makes that chip faster, less power-hungry and cheaper to produce. Chips with smaller components, in other words, are better chips, which is why the computing industry has been able to persuade consumers to shell out for the latest models every few years. But the old magic is fading.