Moore's Law at 50

The Computer History Museum on April 17, 2015 had two lectures and a lunch-time film on Moore’s Law at 50. #CHM

The talk at 11 AM featured David Brock and Arnold Thackeray, the co-authors of Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary, moderated by John Hollar, the CEO of the Computer History Museum.
  • Gordon Moore was the most important chemist of our era.
  • The biography by David Brock and Arnold Thackeray took ten years to write.
  • Gordon was a local yokel, a 5th generation Californian. He grew up in Pescadero, but moved to Redwood City when his father got a job as sheriff there.
  • Took the train to San Jose State, but then decided to attend Cal. He completed his Ph.D. in three years at Caltech at a time when Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman were teaching there.
  • Gordon worked on the border between chemistry and physics in a Caltech subbasement.
  • He and his wife had their first child, Ken, in the 1950s after moving to Maryland to work at APL.
  • Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory was located in Mountain View because he wanted to be close to his ailing mother in Palo Alto. He ran an ad for a chemist in a paper that Gordon responded to.
  • Gordon developed a high temperature diffusion process in a furnace. At Intel he developed an annealing process that facilitated the wire bonding of leads to a semiconductor chip.
  • Gordon was a master of nudging other people.
  • Betty Moore and Andy Grove were masters at reading Gordon’s facial expressions.
  • Betty had seen the result of wealth misapplied. At one point, her father owned half of Oakland, before losing it all. Her mother divorced and raised Betty as a single mom.
The 2 PM talk was on the past and future of Moore’s Law. It featured William Davidow of Mohr Davidow Ventures and Carver Mead, professor emeritus of Caltech. They were moderated by David Brock.
  • In 1960, Richard Hamming observed the impact on society of order of magnitude changes. For example, the impact of the horse on the city-state, the railroad on the industrial-city, and the automobile on today’s two-dimensional suburbs.
  • In this context, Moore’s Law represents 8 orders of magnitude change over a 50 year period.
  • Society is a reflection of interconnections that leads to restructuring. There is a cultural lag that results in tension and friction. This leads to the question of what does infrastructure look like in the future?
  • Carver Mead observed that it was a tough sell that five to six orders of magnitude improvement were possible. Moore’s Law is a reflection on human nature—that something is physically possible and worth doing. Moore’s Law makes everything I do, better.
  • As humans, we engage in a lot of fighting of last years war.
  • We map the physical world into the virtual world; the frequency of energy into color, vibration into music; forgetting in the process that we see the world as a perception of reality.
  • Originally we thought of the mind as a clock. Then we thought of it as a telephone switch. Then as a digital computer. Today we see it as a collection on neurons and synapses having thousands of different levels. In truth, we still have a lot to learn about how the brain functions.
  • Economic theory does not deal well with the fundamental changes caused by innovation.
  • Consider printing, broadcast, and point to point (EBay) commerce. We find the broadcast medium trying to preserve algorithms that worked well in the past, but don’t work well today.
  • Look for pinch points that prevent us from moving forward.
  • Magnetic recording, optical communication and the growth of knowledge are all examples of Moore’s Law applied to other areas of technology.
  • We need a new quantum theory—what was sufficient in the 1920s, isn’t sufficient today.