the other Moore’s Laws

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Moore’s Law refers to the num­ber of tran­sis­tors that can be crammed onto a chip, but lots of other trends show a sim­i­lar ex­po­nen­tial in­crease, and sim­i­larly the oc­ca­sional de­crease.

Com­par­ing the speed of pro­ces­sors is tricky but mem­ory chips are easy to quan­tify. In­tel’s first ever prod­uct, the 3101 RAM chip, had a ca­pac­ity of 64 bits back in 1969, while to­day’s largest chips have a ca­pac­ity of 16 Gbits. That equates to 28 dou­blings, which works out at a dou­bling ev­ery 1.75 years. Turn­ing to an ex­po­nen­tial de­crease, we only have to look at the price per tran­sis­tor. The 2,300-tran­sis­tor 4004 cost $200, which is a touch un­der 10 cents each, in 1971.

Let’s stick with dol­lar pric­ing so we don’t get em­broiled in ex­change-rate fluc­tu­a­tions, and pick a prod­uct cost­ing much the same to­day. If we as­sume the In­tel Core i5-8400 has 2 bil­lion tran­sis­tors, that works out at 0.00001 cents each. When we re­move the ef­fects of in­fla­tion to give a real terms com­par­i­son, the price has halved ev­ery 2.75 years.

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