My life as a geek is complete – I’ve sat in the same room as Dr. Gordon Moore, the man who many regard as the father of the microprocessor and the man responsible for the rate at which the technology industry’s heart beats. It is quite simply an experience I will never forget.
Moore co-founded Intel back in 1968, became president and CEO in 1975, chairman in 1979 and chairman emeritus in 1997. He is the man behind Moore’s Law which, despite being tweaked and amended over the years, keeps the same principle from when Moore first penned the prediction in 1965.
For those not familiar with the law, it states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles about every two years and it’s still amazing that the law still rings true over 40 years later.
Being the tenth year of Intel Developer Forum, there was no better celebration than to bring Gordon Moore onto stage for an informal chat with Dr. Moira Gunn, the host of Tech Nation and Bio Nation for NPR. The chat covered various topics on technology trends and innovation and it was clear that, even despite being 78 now, Moore still has an incredible passion for the industry he helped create.
During the chat, Moore was asked if there was an end state for Moore’s Law, even despite the tweaking of definitions, which have helped to keep the law alive. Moore responded by saying “There is. Any physical quantity that's growing exponentially predicts a disaster. You know, it comes to some kind of an end. You can't go beyond the certain major limits.
“When Stephen Hawking was through here once, he was asked that – essentially that question – what are the fundamental limitations to microelectronics? And he typed out his answer, and he says the speed of light and the atomic nature of matter. And we're not far from that. Before we had our hafnium breakthrough, we were down to the point where we were five molecular layers of insulator in the gate structure in these transistors.
“Well, you clearly can't go below one. In fact, you really can't go below five. You get into other kinds of problems. So there really are some fundamental limits. But it's been amazing to me how the technologists have been able to keep pushing those out ahead of us.
“About as long as I can remember, the fundamental limits [minus] two or three generations out. So far we've been around to get around them, but I think in another decade, decade and a half or something, we'll hit something that is fairly fundamental.”
Dr. Gunn also asked Moore what the alternatives were to the Intel name when the company was founded by Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore. “Well, we went through a lot of them,” said Moore. “I can't imagine how difficult it is for a company today. In those days even we went through a bunch of them. We were originally incorporated just to get through the papers as Moore Noyce Electronics -- no, MN Electronics. Bob's daughter said we ought to call it Moore Noyce Electronics.
“We didn't think that sounded very good. But we had a list of, you know, oh, 15 or 20 names that we tried to get them approved. Typically you tried to get the thing cleared in California and then New York, and then you'd be okay in the rest of the country. And we had four or five rejected before we finally got Intel approved. Then we ended up having to buy the name Intel from a motel company in the Midwest.”
There has been a lot of big stuff announced at this year’s IDF already and there is many more to come, but I can’t help but wonder what is left in store to outdo Gordon Moore’s time on stage. Oh and Pat Gelsinger said that when he went to visit Moore's office, he felt like he was going to see God.
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