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The Good, the Bad, and the Weird: 3 Directions for Moore’s Law

GlobalFoundries has dropped out, TSMC is thriving, and DARPA sees another way forward

3 min read
Photo: TSMC
Silicon Gold Mine: Unlike GlobalFoundries, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. sees profit in following Moore’s Law.
Photo: TSMC

Continuing to scale down the size of transistor features has become costlier and trickier in recent years. So much so that only four manufacturers of logic chips—GlobalFoundries, Intel, Samsung, and TSMC—were even planning to continue the multibillion-dollar effort. Those ranks have now thinned, and schedules for the remaining companies are slipping. But don’t count Moore’s Law out quite yet. If you’ve got the cash, you can now hold evidence of its power in your hand in the form of at least two smartphones. And new ways to improve performance without shrinking transistors appear to be in the offing.

  • The Bad

    In August, GlobalFoundries announced a halt to its development of bleeding-edge chipmaking processes. It had planned to move to the 7-nanometer node and then begin to use extreme-ultraviolet lithography (EUV) to make that process cheaper. From there, it would have developed even more advanced lithography that would allow for 5- and 3-nm nodes. Despite having installed two EUV machines at its Fab 8 facility in Malta, N.Y., all those plans are now on indefinite hold, and the company may even sell the EUV systems back to their manufacturer, ASML Holding.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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