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It’s not a Law, it’s a learning curve

Moore's Law isn't a law at all, it's a learning curve. At least, that's the opinion of Mentor Graphics' boss Wally Rhines. In case you're wondering what the learning curve in question might be, Rhines has plotted the number of transistors ever made against the cost of producing them and concludes the rate of improvement is tied to the rate of unit volume growth. The cumulative number of transistors produced increases exponentially with time, while the cost is reduced by shrinking feature sizes and by using larger wafers.

In his presentation to Future World Symposium 2014, Rhines said the reason why the semiconductor industry is able to make smaller and smaller devices is not because of a projection from four data points in the 1960s; rather, it's because the industry continues to get better at doing what it does.

And he says the cost per unit function – essentially another way of stating Moore's Law – will continue to decrease long after Moore's Law becomes obsolete. The only question is what will replace silicon.

In his well researched presentation, Rhines also showed that such areas as the 'food chain', fabrication equipment, assembly equipment, EDA tools and foundries had all followed the same path; all had learning curves which aligned with that of Moore's Law.

What will maintain the scaling impetus of Moore's Law will be innovation, Rhines contended. Whether it's 3D stacking, new types of transistor, carbon nanotubes or whatever, he said innovation will maintain unit volume growth and cost reduction.

It's as easy as that.

Graham Pitcher

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