Ed's Threads

Moore’s Law Smells Funny

…maybe we need “Integrated Cleverness Law”

“Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.” - Frank Zappa 1973
from Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen’s Church)

Marketing is about managing expectations. IC marketing must position next-generation chips as adding significant new/improved functionalities, and for over 50 years the IC fab industry has leaned on the conceptual crutch of “so-called Moore’s Law” (as Gordon Moore always refers to it) to do so. For 40 years the raw device count was a good proxy for a better IC, but since the end of Dennard Scaling the raw transistor count on a chip is no longer the primary determinant of value.

Intel’s has recently released official positions on Moore’s Law, and the main position is certainly correct:  “Advances in Semi Manufacturing Continue to Make Products Better and More Affordable,” as per the sub-headline of the blog post by Stacy Smith, executive vice president leading manufacturing, operations, and sales for Intel. Smith adds that “We have seen that it won’t end from lack of benefits, and that progress won’t be choked off by economics.” This is what has been meant by “Moore’s Law” all along.

When I interviewed Gordon Moore about all of this 20 years ago (“The Return of Cleverness” Solid State Technology, July 1997, 359), he wisely reminded us that before the industry reaches the limits of physical scaling we will be working with billions of transistors in a square centimeter of silicon. There are no ends to the possibilities of cleverly combining billions of transistors with sensors and communications technologies to add more value to our world. Intel’s recent spend of US$15B to acquire MobileEye is based on a plan to cost-effective integrate novel functionalities, not to merely make the most dense IC.

EETimes reports that at the International Symposium on Physical Design (ISPD 2017) Intel described more than a dozen technologies it is developing with universities and the SRC to transcend the limitations of CMOS. Ian Young, a senior fellow with Intel’s Technology Manufacturing Group and director of exploratory integrated circuits in components research, recently became the editor-in-chief of a new technical journal called the IEEE Journal of Exploratory Solid-State Computational Devices and Circuits, which explores these new CMOS-fab compatible processes.

Meanwhile, Intel’s Mark Bohr does an admirable job of advocating for reason when discussing the size of minimally scaled ICs. Bohr is completely correct in touting Intel’s hard-won lead in making devices smaller, and the company’s fab prowess remains unparalleled.

As I posted here three years ago in my “Moore’s Law Is Dead” blog series, our industry would be better served by retiring the now-obsolete simplification that more = better. As Moore himself says, cleverness in design and manufacturing will always allow us to make more valuable ICs. Maybe it is time to retire “Moore’s Law” and begin leveraging a term like “Integrated Cleverness Law” when telling the world that the next generation of ICs will be better.



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One thought on “Moore’s Law Smells Funny

  1. Rohitkumar H Vora, PhD

    I have read a report of March 30th 2017 posted by Ms. Rachel Courtland in the IEEE Spectrum, titled: “Intel Now Packs 100 Million Transistors in Each Square Millimeter”, and posted about it by Mr. Mike Perry (with pen name: Michael W. Perry) of the inkingbooks.com.

    Ms. Courtland’s above mentioned report with the tantalizing title was interesting read. However more interestingly, I somewhat agree to Mr. Mike Perry’s suggested some read deal commonsense practicality Moore’s Law or not thereof for the next generation IC chips/semiconductor devices fabrication. I therefore, take liberty to suggest to all the scientist and engineers working in the R&D and semiconductors and processors device manufacturing industry to please read and understand what realization Mr. Mike Perry is driving at.

    For the most semiconductors technology companies, Moor’s Law is historically running or ran the final lag of the journey toward its obliteration. According to the published news/interview reports, even Dr. Gordon Earle Moore himself agreed about it in the recent years. However, presently it seems that Intel is keeping it alive only for the ‘front-page’ news/headlines, and of course, for some tangible commercial rewards comes with it; and also for its Scientist(s)/Engineer(s) who claim it to be a magic(!) in their interview(s), nothing more than an opportunity to have personal name recognition.

    As for the Intel and most semiconductors technology MNC it rather is important to be working on the disruptive scientific innovation in multilayer IC chips and integrative processor fabrication technologies recaptured from their patents portfolios for increasing their shareholder’s values.


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