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Moore’s Law: The Patterns of Progress


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Moore’s Law: The Patterns of Progress

Moore’s law is famous for it’s 45 year prediction of the growth of the microprocessor industry. In recent years, similar models have been used to look at how all sorts of progress have accelerated through time. Let’s take a look at progress according to Moore’s Law.

“The Number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles roughly every 2 years”
– Gorgon Moore, Co-founder of Intel (1965)

Moore’s law became the measure of success for the semiconductor trade for the following 40 years.

Intel provides the analogue of “if transistors were people” to show the increased power of microprocessors.

1972: 3,500 transistors
In people terms: about the size of a large theater
2012: 1.3 billion transistors
In people terms: The population of China.
(In the size of the same theater)

[#year, name of processor, speed, # of transistors] [#note sometimes the speed of the processor doubles, sometimes the # of transistors] First doubling: April 1972–8008–200 kilohertz–3,500
December 1974–8080–2 MHz–6,000

Second doubling: August 1976–8085–5 MHz–6,500
September 1978–8086–10 MHz–29,000

Third doubling: February 1982–286–12 MHz–134,000
October 1985–386–16 MHz–275,000

Fourth doubling: February 1987–386–20 MHz–275,000
April 1989–486–25 MHz–1,200,000

Fifth doubling: June 1991–486–50 MHz–1,200,000
March 1993–Pentium–60 MHz–3,100,000

Sixth doubling: March 1994–Pentium–75 MHz–3,200,000
March 1995–Pentium–120 MHz–3,200,000

Seventh doubling: June 1995–Pentium–133 MHz–3,300,000
June 1996–Pentium–200 MHz–3,300,000

Eight doubling: May 1997–Pentium II–300MHz–3,300,000
April 1998–Pentium II–400 MHz–7,500,000

Ninth Doubling: August 1998–Pentium II–450 MHz–7,500,000
January 2000–Pentium III–800 MHz–28,000,000

Tenth Doubling: March 2000–Pentium III–1.0 GHz–28,000,000
November 2000–Pentium 4–1.5 GHz–42,000,000

Eleventh Doubling: April 2001–Pentium 4–2 GHz–42,000,000
August 2002–Pentium 4–2.8 GHz–55,000,000

Twelfth Doubling: February 2004–Pentium 4–3.4 GHz–55,000,000
July 2006–Core 2 Duo–Level 2 cache 4MB–253,000,000

Thirteenth Doubling: November 2006–Core 2 Extreme QX6700–Level 2 cache 8MB–582,000,000
2010–z196–5.2 Ghz–1,400,000,000

Fourteenth Doubling:2010–z196–5.2 Ghz–1,400,000,000
2012–zEC12–5.5 Ghz–3,300,000,000

Extrapolating Moore’s law backwards places 0 transistors in the 60’s.
The 1960’s were roughly the birth of the microprocessor industry.

Recently, Moore’s law has been used for a number of backwards extrapolations.

Scientific Publications

1650 to 1950–Publication rates double every 13 years
1960 to 1990–Publication rates double every 15 years

Extrapolate backwards and the birth of scientific publications is in 1710.
(About the time of Sir Isaac Newton)


[Year–number of scientific publications (roughly)–notable scientists (if any)] 1710-1- Within 5 years of Sir Isaac Newton’s Opticks
1755-8- Benjamin Franklin invents lightning conductor
1830-256- 104 published members of the Royal Society of Britain
1845-512- Anesthesia discovered
1860-1024- Louis Pasteur discovers Germ Theory
1920-16,384- Schrodinger’s equation
1950-65,536- Quantum Electrodynamics
1995-524,288- Dolly the sheep cloned

Moore’s law has also been used to predict the origins of life.

Complexity of phenotypes doubles every 376 million years.

When you extrapolate that backwards, it would appear that life is older than Earth itself.

Something accelerated the growth in diversity of life early in Earth’s history, even with the rate of increase persisting through the extinction of 95% of all organisms.

or, life existed before Earth.

[#years–phenotypic variation–other pertinent information] 9.7 billion years ago- 1
9.4 billion years- 2
9 billion years- 4
8.6 billion years- 8
8.25 billion years- 16
7.87 billion years- 32
7.5 billion years- 64
7.12 billion years- 128
6.74 billion years- 256
6.37 billion years- 512
5.99 billion years- 1024
5.62 billion years- 2048
5.24 billion years- 4094
4.86 billion years- 8188
4.49 billion years- 16,376-roughly the formation of Earth
4.11 billion years- 32,752
3.74 billion years- 65,504-First cyanobacteria-first prokaryotes-first microbial mats
3.36 billion years- 131,008
2.98 billion years- 262,016
2.61 billion years- 524,032
2.23 billion years- 1,048,064-Rise in Atmospheric Oxygen
1.86 billion years- 2,096-128-First multicellular organisms-First Eukaryotes
1.48 billion years- 4,192,256-First cells with nuclei-first fungi
1.1 billion years- 8,384,512
728 million years- 16,769,024-first hard-shelled animals- land invertebrates- plants
352 million years- 33,538,048
66 million years ago- Extinction of 955 of all living creatures
last 250,000 years- Homo Sapiens
24 million years into the future- 67,076-096

Even with disruptive events like rising oxygen levels, and the extinction of 95% of species, this Moore’s law type extrapolation has held true.

All the Moore interesting.



  1. http://www.technologyreview.com/view/513781/moores-law-and-the-origin-of-life/
  2. http://www.raptureready.com/time/rap31d.html
  3. http://www.raptureready.com/time/rap31d.html
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_scientific_discoveries#19th_century
  5. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2010Natur.466..100A
  6. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/bacteria/bacteriafr.html
  7. http://www.biology-direct.com/content/3/1/29

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