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Understanding Moore's Law

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In April of 1965, Electronics magazine published an article by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. The article and the predictions that it made have since become the stuff of legend, and like most legends it has gone through a number of changes in the telling and retelling. The press seized on the article's argument that semiconductor technology would usher in a new era of electronic integration, and they distilled it into a maxim that has taken on multiple forms over the years. Regardless of the form that the maxim takes, though, it is always given the same name: Moore's Law.

Moore's Law is so perennially protean because its eponymous formulator never quite gave it a precise formulation. Rather, using prose, graphs, and a cartoon Moore wove together a collection of observations and insights in order to outline a cluster of trends that would change the way we live and work. In the main, Moore was right, and many of his specific predictions have come true over the years. The press, on the other hand, has met with mixed results in its attempts to sort out exactly what Moore said and, more importantly, what he meant. The present article represents my humble attempt to bring some order to the chaos of almost four decades of reporting and misreporting on an unbelievably complex industrial/social/psychological phenomenon.

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