The hefty price of keeping up with Moore's LawCNET's Bridget Carey and Ben Fox Rubin discuss how Moore's Law sets the pace for all technology today and what can happen if a company doesn't keep up.
It's not easy to make a prediction about the future of computers that will be true for the next half-century. But 50 years ago in 1965, the co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore, made a prediction that holds true today. He noticed that every year, since the computer chip was invented, those chips were becoming twice as complex. His theory was that this would continue, and it has. About every two years, man has been able to make computer chips faster, cheaper, and smaller. I'm Bridget Carey and on this CNET Inside Scoop, I'm joined by colleague Ben Rubin who has reporting on this theory known as Moore's law. Now, it's 50 years later since this theory came about so what's the significance now looking back? [UNKNOWN] The concept of Moore's law first started as an observation. And now it's basically turned into a fact. It's turned into a timeline that all chip manufacturers, software developers, device makers follow along and expect. And for chip manufacturers, especially, if you kinda fall behind this two-year timeline that was first observed 50 years ago, you could become irrelevant. All your factories, all your scientists, all your research, could, all of a sudden just go, poof. Nobody really cares about your chips anymore, because you're just not moving fast enough. For consumers, Moore's Law has meant that, basically, the internet smartphones. All the different types of technology that we see today. Wouldn't really be possible without the complexity of these chips growing as quickly as it has. In your research, what surprised you? The thing that I would say first of all that surprised me and, and that I spent a lot of time learning about was just how small the different parts of a chip are today. The first transistor, which is the most important part of a chip, was built by hand. And these days. They can make them with machines that produce them to be smaller than a virus. Transistors today, you could fit more than 100 million of them on a pinhead, which is just kind of like, you know, mind-blowing to think about. If you Hard to imagine. Yeah, exactly. And, and they don't just make one transistor, they make more than a billion of them to fit on any chip. And and they make billions and billions of chips a year, so just to consider the precision necessary to do this type of work, it, it's really pretty incredible. I went out to Oregon and saw Intel's research facilities over there, and to really get like a full perspective of just how much work and effort is needed to do this kind of work. I took a helicopter ride. To see the 300 acre facility. One of their newest facilities, it started in the '90s. And it's just absolutely enormous, in this effort to try to develop and manufacture chips. Is there a point we're reaching where people are thinking that we're not gonna be able to make transistors any smaller. We can't keep making chips, you know, twice as good every two years? Yeah, I mean, ever since Moore's law was, was first coined or considered, there's always been predictions that it's gonna end at some point. And eh eh, probably, in some way, it probably will and there's just, you know, physics dictates that you just can't keep making this stuff smaller and smaller. It's gonna happen. I, I don't think that. From, from my research it seems that the, in the immediate future that's probably not gonna be the case. Like, we're not in danger of this happening anytime soon. And even then scientists plan to kinda pivot, where they're gonna find a way to make chips faster and cheaper. But maybe not through the same way that they've been doing by making transistors smaller. Well thanks, Ben, for joining us on this CNET Inside Scoop. And you can catch his full story on cnet.com. I'm Bridget Carey. Thanks for watching. [MUSIC]