Looking back thirty years after Gordon E. Moore first published his observations which would become known as Moore’s Law, he mused “The definition of “Moore’s Law” has come to refer to almost anything related to the semiconductor industry that when plotted on semi-log paper approximates a straight line.”1 Indeed, this abuse of the meaning of Moore’s Law has led to a great deal of confusion about what it exactly is.
This paper starts with a review of Moore’s law, covering where we've been, where are, and where we are going. It delves into its meaning for our industry and the economic implications that it poses.
Moore’s law is predicated on shrinking the critical features of the planar process: the smaller these features, the more bits that can be packed into a given area. But we have passed the limits of what can be done by simple scaling. We need new methods and new materials, like high-k dielectrics. Are these changes a sign of the end? Technical barriers are ultimately expressed economically and have important ramifications far beyond the industry itself. Moore’s law is not only an expression of a powerful engine for economic growth in the industry, but also for the economy as a whole.
This paper shows how the continuation of Moore’s law provides a foundation for future economic growth; how it’s broken down the red brick walls in its path; what barriers are believed to loom today; how they might be relevant; and why they probably are not. It looks to other industries for examples and ponders the question of what happens if the show does indeed stop.
1 G.E. Moore, “Lithography and the Future of Moore’s Law,” SPIE Volume 2440, 0-8194-1799-2/95