Innovations to keep Moore's Law aliveIn this Inside Scoop, CNET's Kara Tsuboi and Stephen Shankland discuss the decades-old principle of Moore's Law and if it could ever fail. Hear how the chip industry is developing new technologies to make sure computers keep getting smaller, faster, and...
-Hey everyone. Welcome to the Inside Scoop. I'm Kara Tsuboi cnet.com, joining me a Senior Writer Steven Shanklin. Keep joining us Steven. Today, we're talking about Moore's Law. Why don't you very quickly give our viewers a quick description of who Gordon Moore was and his law that he created several decades ago. -Sure. Gordon Moore is a co-founder of Intel and one of the pioneers of the development of computer chips, microprocessors. In the 1965, he wrote a paper that's now famous where he described Moore's law for the first time, although he didn't call it that. And in that first paper he observed that the number of transistors on the chip, that's the number of little tiny electronic circuitry components is doubling every year. And in 1975, he came back and revised that view. He figured out that it's actually now actually every two years and it's a law that actually proved remarkably pressing the industry is stuck to it ever since, that's why we have ever more, you know, in [unk] transistors on the chip and that's why computer processors can do more and more what used to fit on the mainframe not fits on a PC and that's on the smartphones. So, it's basically the march of progress rule for the computer industry. -Exactly. That's the reason I can have a very sophisticated smartphone in my pocket today. -Exactly. -But what are some of the problems facing Moore's law. I mean, can this really continue and keep up? -Well, it's-- to be clear it's had problems just about every year since its existence and yet the industry just keeps on going-- clearing hurdle after hurdle. So it's-- there plenty more hurdles to come. Looks like we have, you know, at least a decade left in the current technology and that uses silicon for very important part of the transistors. What happens after silicon runs out of steam, it's kind of wide open right now and there are a lot of options out there. And I think what's most interesting is there, is a huge industry that is maniacally focused on making sure computing progress continues even if Moore's law precisely define doesn't continue. What are some of the solutions that they are coming up with, like, are they completely rethinking materials or rethinking construction like how are they gonna do that? -Well, currently, the leading contenders use the same basic structure for transistors as we have today. But one of the most interesting one is a material called Graphene so you leave a lot of the transistors the same but for one little silicon channel, you could replace that with a little piece of a substance called Graphene. That's a sheet of carbon atoms that looks like chicken wire, little hexagons all stuck together and then to the right circumstances, Graphene is a semi-conductor which means that it can transmit electricity or not depending on the situation. That's the key thing that you need to have happen in order to make a microprocessor. So that's, I think one of the most interesting possibilities but there are a lot of challenges in getting that to work and getting to the point where anybody can actually manufacture a chip economically. -So what happens if the chip industry runs out of steaming can't keep up? -That's a very interesting question. Right now most of the people I talked to are now panicking by any means that, that might happen, but you have to ask yourself what would happen and the most likely situation is not that there are some big cataclysmic moment where the industry falls off a cliff but more as if a gradual tapering down or [unk]. There will be a lot of warning in advance if things, if the train was going way off the rail, so it wouldn't be a sudden thing. And there will be a lot of things that the industry could do to help pick up the slack improvement in software, improvements in how the processors actually work and lots of other things. So, I think that if it did happen, it would probably a gradual transition and when it was over, there would still be a lot of innovation. I think a good example will be the automotive industry. You know, internal combustion engines haven't changed profoundly in decades. You know, you get extra things. You can empty lock brakes, you get fuel injection and you get maybe electric vehicles are radical changes. But, you know, for the most part, that's of a mature industry. It doesn't change very much it is still very big and very important and very lively industry. -Fascinating. Well, as Moore's law I guess reaches its 50th Anniversary in a few years. We'll definitely be all watching with interest to see if the industry can indeed keep up. Thank you so much Steven. I'm Kara Tsuboi and you've been watching the Inside Scoop.