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Intel finds its founder's words of wisdom

by Nick Haywood on 9 May 2005, 00:00

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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Intel finds its founder’s words of wisdom

Intel finds its founder’s words of wisdom!

Let’s go back… let’s go way back. Let’s go back to the sixties, where flowers had power and people had no dress sense. All that time ago, a chap called Gordon Moore made a prediction, a startling prediction that would turn out to actually come true.

Of course, you’re sitting there thinking “Gordon who?”, so let me enlighten you. Gordon Moore is the co-founder of a computer component company you might have heard of called Intel. But not only that, he’s famous for this remarkable prediction he made way back in 1965, which has come to be known as “Moore’s Law”…. Yes, that’s the guy… See? You did know him after all…

Anyway, for the sake of those whose interior lights are still not on, I’ll explain what Moore’s Law is all about. In its first version (it’s been revised since then) Moore’s Law stated that the number of transistors square inch on integrated circuits would double every year. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future.

That famous graph, depicting Moore’s Law

What happened though was that, in subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has still doubled approximately every 18 months, and so this is the current definition of Moore's Law, which Moore himself agrees with.

Several times in the past, it appeared that technological barriers such as power consumption would slow or even halt the growth trends, but companies found ways around the barriers. Moore says a new, more fundamental barrier is emerging — that the technology is approaching atomic dimensions, raising all sorts of new challenges. This raises the issue of whether Moore’s Law will still apply in the future, but given the new technologies emerging, Moore is confident that his law will apply for the next couple of decades.

The key to ensuring that Moore’s Law continues is that the transistor itself must evolve from the planar structure generally used today into something else allowing greater speeds without incurring the associated heat problems… after all, we are getting close to atomic levels of miniaturisation and we need to find a way of getting around THAT barrier.

Many new ideas have been proposed to solve the evolving issues. One radical proposal currently being studied involves a three-dimensional, tri-gate transistor. These new transistors achieve higher performance with greater power efficiency than traditional planar transistors and are designed such that they can continue to be scaled down while being reasonably simple to manufacture.

Of course, the days of quantum processors might seem like science fiction now, by another phrase “Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact” could well proved to be true when it comes to processors in 20 years time.

Now, anyone else reporting on Gordon Moore and his law would leave it there and be happy, but are rarely happy with the ‘just enough’ approach. Earlier today, our esteemed leader was at Intel’s UK headquarters in Swindon to witness a unique event in Intel’s history.

Take a glance back up the page and you’ll see that Gordon Moore first made his prediction in 1965. He did this in a magazine called ‘Electronics’, a notable publication of it’s time. Now, considering that this will be the fortieth anniversary of Moore’s famous law, the bods at Intel thought it’d be rather nice to get their hands on an original copy of said magazine. All well and good, but where, exactly, do you start looking for a 40 year old magazine that had a limited following all those years ago and is unlikely to have survived the ravages of time?

This is what all the fuss is about, Electronics Magazine, April 19th, 1965

What Intel did was throw it open to anyone, worldwide to have a look in their attic, under their bed, in the bottom of the rabbit hutch, wherever to find a copy… and Intel was happy to make it worth the finder’s while with $10,000 dollars offered up for a pristine copy of the issue in question. It’d be pretty unlikely that anyone would have one, but Intel was hopeful.

The article that has made history with a theory that has, so far, proven to be right.

Step in, David Clark, a consultant engineer working for Philips. David spotted the advertisement about the mag on his RSS feed from Slashdot and got to wondering… When his old work had a clearout, he was given a bundle of Electronics mags from roughly 1965 through to 1975… so maybe he’d be in luck… he wasn’t sure if he had the particular one Intel was after as he hadn’t read them, so it was purely a hunch that he might have it that made David take the afternoon off work and head for home.

David’s wife, Freda, will quite happily admit that he’s a massive hoarder, so when David came home, he started hunting all over for the magazines, feeling pretty confident he had them stashed somewhere. After a bit of hunting, and this is extreme hunting as David lifted his floorboards to find the mags, he came up trumps with a pristine copy of the very issue Intel was after!

David Clark (left) hands over his copy of Electronics to Intel’s Nick Knupffer

A couple of days later and it was all sorted with Intel, who handed over the 10 big ones for the mag, and HEXUS was there to see David present the issue to Intel. The magazine is to be shipped to Santa Clara, California where it will go on display in Intel’s museum. David has already decided what to spend his reward on… and it’s not hardware. Only the week before, David built himself an AMD system but, on top of the $10K, Intel also gave him an 840 Dual Core CPU, 2GB Ram, a PSU, an X600 PCI-E card, and a 955 motherboard for finding that 40-year- old mag! So, not needing any computery bits for a while, Mr. Clark is going to spend the money on his daughter, Bryony, who is getting married soon.

It just goes to show… being a hoarder and a geek can pay off big time. Time for me to dig out my back issues of Maplin's catalogues, they’ve got to be worth something, eh?