David Pan, a friend of mine and professor at UT Austin, told me recently “Moore’s Law isn’t dead – it’s just having a mid-life crisis.” Although I wrote an article a few years ago provocatively titled “The End of the Semiconductor Industry as We Know It”, I think David is right – our industry is in mid-life crisis. I can relate.
Gordon Moore penned his famous law in 1965, observing a doubling of the number of the transistors on a chip since the birth of the integrated circuit in 1960. Now it just so happens that I was born in 1960. I certainly don’t claim any cosmic connection to continuous semiconductor improvement due to this coincidence of birth dates, but it does mean that me and the technology driver of the Information Age share at least one thing – we are both getting old.
Now I certainly don’t feel ‘old’, or that my useful days are behind me, but I’m not young either. I can’t pull all-nighters anymore, they way I used to when I could start and finish a conference paper 12 hours before I gave it. I’m unwilling to put my life on hold when a customer calls and says he needs something yesterday. I can’t work in the fab – that’s a young person’s job. And yes, the cries of “mid-life crisis” could be heard from all of my friends when I bought that Lotus sports car last year. I’m definitely older, but I like to think that I’m wiser too, and that this wisdom is more than enough to make up for a little slowness in step. But is the same thing true of the IC industry? It better be, or things will get pretty ugly fast. Working harder and faster because we have to keep with Moore’s Law is not good enough any more. The IC industry took off because the early pioneers took the science of semiconductors and turned it into technology. For that technology to keep going, we’ll have to bring in a whole bunch of new science. Most of that science will come from the universities, unlike in the past when most innovations came from the IC companies. Increased support for univeristy research is needed now, and hopeful it is not already too late.
Moore’s Law is getting old – let’s hope it gets wise as well.