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Time flies and after 23 years, it’s time to move on

When I started covering this industry as a reporter with Electronics Times in 1980, we were getting excited about things like the Intel 80286, which integrated 134,000 transistors and was produced on a 1.5µm process. We saw the beginning of the PC era with the launch of the IBM PC and Japan threatening to dominate the electronics industry.

But there was hope for UK electronics. Inmos was making a serious pitch for part of the memory market, while Ferranti had developed something called an uncommitted logic array – the forerunner of the FPGA – several years before Xilinx appeared on the scene. They were heady times.

When I joined New Electronics in 1994, we were beginning to talk about something called ‘deep sub micron’ and companies made their own chips – I’m not sure we knew what a foundry was.

Engineers were still specifying components from catalogues, but we were starting to talk about this thing called ‘the internet’. We dialled up using a 56k modem and sat in front of the one connected PC in the office, watching pages slowly appear, courtesy of Netscape. But we knew the web had potential and New Electronics launched its first website in 1997. Today’s site is significantly different to our original ideas, which had doors you had to pay to pass through.

Fast forward to today. Chips are shortly to be made on 7nm processes, while devices like Qualcomm’s Centriq 2400 feature 18billion transistors. Intel says it is now fitting 100million transistors in a square millimetre of silicon using its 10nm process.

All the while, Moore’s Law has been the heartbeat of the industry. Although an observation made by Intel founder Gordon Moore in 1965, the Law has not only driven – but also demanded – innovation. We’ve been expecting Moore’s Law to ‘hit the wall’ for years, but engineering ingenuity continues to push that day into the future.

My 37 years and change in the electronics industry have been an amazing ride; I’ve rubbed shoulders with and interviewed some of the leading figures in electronics history and have had the privilege of commentating on the world’s fastest moving industry.

Now, I’m stepping off. If you have been, thanks for reading.

Graham Pitcher

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