37 Years of Moore's Law

The data

1 min read

From 2300 transistors on an Intel 4004 chip to the forest of 2 ­billion transistors residing on the ­latest generation of Intel microprocessors, Gordon E. Moore’s famous law has guided the steady shrinking of ­transistors and their consequent ­density on ­microchips. That doubling about every two years is how we went from Pong in 1972 to the astonishing real-time ­rendering of hair that moves according to the laws of real-world physics in the video game Heavenly Sword in 2007.

Enabling such technological ­marvels has been the sharp growth of ­available processing power and the ­commensurate decline of the cost of DRAM over the past 37 years [see timeline]. Though Moore made his ­prediction in 1965—which was 45 years ago—it was the ­concurrent invention of the micro­processor and DRAM in 1971 that sparked the ­complementary arcs shown below. Because the ­semiconductor ­industry advances in ­lockstep, this curve, though based on Intel chips, is likely ­representative of the general trend.

Technological advances like ­personal computers, the Internet, and video games drove these ­complementary slopes of cost decline and ­processing-power growth. But just as in the ­chickenâ''and-the-egg scenario, those slopes were also the driving force behind the consequent ­technological advances. Some might balk at the US $399 price tag of an iPhone, but in 1971, its then strictly ­hypothetical 128 MB of DRAM would have set the ­consumer back about $50 688 in 2008 dollars. In recent years, ­processing power has hit a ­plateau: to continue ramping up performance according to the expectations set by Moore’s Law, companies like Intel and AMD have turned to multicore processing. The future path of this graph, therefore, is not necessarily predictable.

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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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