Moore’s Law is No More

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Computers have come a long way from punch card readers (but they seem to be just as fragile and prone to being broken when given to your average user 🙂 ). The increase in computer processing power has been exponentially increasing, but those annoying laws of physics may force us to redesign the computer. In 1965, Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel (most famous for their processors), predicted that every two years or so the number of transistors that can be fit on a chip will double. This has become known as Moore’s Law. This has held eerily true for about fifty years, but recently we have started to get to the point to where we are making components so small that it is becoming harder to make them smaller. In the end, physics always wins; eventually we will be unable to be able to make them any smaller. There are varying estimates for when we will be practically at a standstill, but they seem to be around 2020.

Very recently, like this week, concern for the end of computer innovation seems to have grown. Fear not, for computer prices will still go down; always have, always will (until they become antiques and collectors’ items like the Commodore 64). Anyway, by the time we need to research for new ways of computing, computers will be slightly better than they are today, and computers are fine right now. In the future, we may need to redesign the computer dramatically. Even that old Windows 95 computer sitting in the corner has sort of the same components as a new computer, give or take a PCI Express SSD (you know…a motherboard, a CPU and such).

A consequence of computers improving is that overclocking CPUs is becoming less and less helpful, if your CPU supports overclocking. Back in the days of 300 MHz processors, it would make tons of sense to overclock. If you can overclock the 300 MHz CPU to 400 MHz, then that is a 33.3% performance boost. Say you take a modern top of the line 2.6 GHz processor, and you are able to overclock it to 2.75 GHz; that would only be a 5.7% performance boost. That would not be worth the system instability that comes with overclocking components. You see, when some CPUs are made (say a batch of 3.0 GHz i7 processors) some turn out to be a bit worse manufactured than others are. There are then places where they are checked to see at what speed they can safely run. The CPU is checked, and let’s say it can run at 2.75 GHz, but since the factory does not make 2.75 GHz CPUs, it is put in a category for which it can qualify. Our 2.75 GHz CPU will be set to run at 2.6 GHz, unless overclocked, since the factory does make 2.6 GHz. Then the CPU might be put into your computer; it will say 2.6 GHZ and run at 2.6 GHZ, but it can run at 2.75 GHz.

Who knows how computers will operate in the future? Maybe they will be like the Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and use isolinear circuitry. That would be nice.

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6 Comments

  1. Katy Pillman July 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    Moore’s Law is still applying as of today, but the future is most unlikely, We will most likely see 16-core 2.0 GHz CPU in the near future.

  2. Mendel July 16, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Moores law is still doing fine. Remember he said transistors per chip, not transistors per chip of x size.
    Intel now has 3-D chip designs (a.k.a 2+x the transistors in the same space and transistors size), and ARM is way more compact and heat efficient then x86/x64 (for example the A7 and K1 are quite powerful for chips so small and only consume 8 watts under load.)
    So the real question should be will x86/x64 die by 2020/2025 because mores law can continue on ARM.

  3. Nicholas Fusco July 16, 2014 at 8:55 am

    “If you can overclock the 300 MHz CPU to 400 MHz, then that is a 33.3% performance boost. Say you take a modern top of the line 2.6 GHz processor, and you are able to overclock it to 2.75 GHz; that would only be a 5.7% performance boost. ”
    That is a silly comparison and really doesn’t say anything, especially with the massive increase we have seen in IPC’s over the pat decade.
    Besides, modern CPUs, like an i5 4670k (3.4GHz) or an i7 4770k (3.5GHz) have a median overclock of about 4.5GHz, (a 32% and 28% increase respectively) with some chips going up as high as 4.8GHz (a 41% and 37% increase).
    Also, while Moore’s law as it applies to standard silicon is indeed slowing down, its not dead. And IBM just recently invested over 3 Billion dollars to develop new ways of making chips.

  4. Martin Lehner July 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Another issue we’re running into today is that application can’t necessarily take advantage of multiple CPU cores. As well, CPU speed isn’t the limiting bottleneck anymore in a lot of cases. Things like hard drive i/o speed are having more of an impact.

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