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Moore's Law In Triage

Are we reaching the limits of our ability to keep making smaller, faster chips? The world's smartest engineers gather in San Francisco to discuss how to keep Moore's Law alive.

Some of the world's smartest semiconductor engineers will gather at Semicon West to discuss ways to keep Moore's Law alive. Eventually we will not be able to keep making smaller, faster cheaper chips -- at least not using anything like the techniques we use today.

Many stories will be written about the death of Moore's Law shortly, given the wealth of sessions about the silicon roadmap at Semicon West. I'll probably write at least one myself. Although I have no idea what I will say yet, I suspect it might take the form of an upbeat look at the latest batch of promising ideas from world-class engineers.

I hope to hear discussions at the event about the outlook for a 5nm node, extreme ultraviolet lithography, 450-mm wafers, and more. Some of the world's top experts on making chips will be hanging out in San Francisco (where more than a few of them live anyway). I hope to meet as many as possible.

I wrote my first story about the death of Moore's Law back in the mid-1990s, when I had my first and only interview with Gordon Moore. He said his observation about doubling transistors in a given area every 18 to 24 months was bound to end -- it will hit atomic limits. Before it ends, he added, it will get really hard to do and slow down.

Many experts think we're seeing that now. In May 2013, Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli was the first smart semiconductor executive I heard admit publicly this is starting to happen now.

Read the rest of this article on EETimes.

Based in San Jose, Rick writes news and analysis about the electronics industry and the engineering profession for EE Times. He is the editor of the Android, Internet of Things, Wireless/Networking, and Medical Designlines. He joined EE Times in 1992 as a Hong Kong based ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 2:57:31 PM
Maybe the approach in general needs to be different
Of course, smaller and smaller chips are great, but maybe it is better to improve production efficiencies to make chips cheaper to produce and optimize the designs for power consumption. That way we can simple stuff multiple CPUs and GPUs into systems spreading the work across multiple physical units that need to get a lot of help from chipsets, memory, peripherals, and especially software.

In other words, stop continuing making inefficient designs and software while asking for faster chips. Instead, focus on efficient coding and designs. Does any developer these days think about memory usage or which command will execute a wee bit faster? Maybe firmware engineers still have that mindset, but with credit card sized multi-purpose computers that come with plenty of RAM even that is often not top of mind.
User Rank: Author
7/2/2014 | 4:45:07 PM
Re: Not with Silicon
Is Google working working with mobile device battery techs at all? If they intend to rule Android devices /wearables, this would fit in the portfolio of projects.
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2014 | 3:40:18 PM
Re: Not with Silicon
I agree. Nothing has been so disappointing across the board as the lack of progress in batteries. And, it's not as if it's been neglected, either, with billions having been spent here, in China, and elsewhere.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/2/2014 | 3:36:15 PM
Re: Not with Silicon
Maybe it's time to focus on making software and hardware more usable. Moore's Law is already hampered by lack of progress in battery technology.
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2014 | 1:49:12 PM
Not with Silicon
The one thing no one can do is reduce the size of a silicon atom, so if silicon continues to be the way to go, Moore's Law would be soon be coming to the end of its "jurisdiction." However, the oft mentioned nanatube transistor seems to be edging closer and closer to reality, with the inherent possiblity of extending Moore's law for some additional years.
Server Market Splitsville
Server Market Splitsville
Just because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.
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