Computer History MuseumSemiconductor History

1965 - "Moore's Law" Predicts the Future of Integrated Circuits

Fairchild’s Director of R & D predicts the rate of increase of transistor density on an integrated circuit and establishes a yardstick for technology progress.

Gordon Moore, Fairchild Semiconductor’s Director of R&D, wrote an internal paper in which he drew a line through five points representing the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost per component developed between 1959 and 1964. "The Future of Integrated Electronics" attempted to predict "the development of integrated electronics for perhaps the next ten years." Extrapolating the trend to 1975 he projected that the number of components per chip would reach 65,000; a doubling every 12 months. Edited for publication as a magazine article, "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits" was published in Electronics on April 19, 1965.

At the 1975 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting Moore, by now with Intel, noted that advances in photolithography, wafer size, process technology, and "circuit and device cleverness," especially in semiconductor memory arrays, had allowed his projection to be realized. Adding more recent data, that included a higher mix of microprocessor designs that were somewhat less dense than memories, he slowed the future rate of increase in complexity to "a doubling every two years, rather than every year."

This prediction became a self-fulfilling prophecy that emerged as one of the driving principles of the semiconductor industry. Technologists were challenged with delivering annual breakthroughs that ensured compliance with "Moore’s Law," as it was dubbed by Carver Mead. On reviewing the status of the industry again in 1995 (at which time an Intel Pentium microprocessor held nearly 5 million transistors) Moore concluded that “The current prediction is that this is not going to stop soon.” Devices exceeding one (U.S.) billion transistors exist today.

Contemporary Documents

Moore, Gordon. "The Future of Integrated Electronics." Fairchild Semiconductor internal publication (1964).

Moore, Gordon. "Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits," Electronics Magazine Vol. 38, No. 8 (April 19, 1965).

Moore, Gordon. "Progress in Digital Integrated Electronics" IEEE, IEDM Tech Digest (1975) pp.11-13.

Moore, Gordon. "Lithography and the Future of Moore's Law," Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 2437 (May 1995).

More Information

"Moore’s Law in perspective," Intel information sheet 306971-001US (2005).

Hutcheson, Dan G. "Moore's Law: The History and Economics of an Observation that Changed the World," The Electrochemical Society INTERFACE Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring 2005) pp. 17-21.

Brock, David ed. Understanding Moore's Law: Four Decades of Innovation. (Chemical Heritage Foundation, September 1, 2006).