By Mohammed Fareed, Software and Service Group business development manager at Intel South Africa.
If you were to sum up the evolution of the computer by using one phrase, it would go something like this: Smaller, faster, more efficient, and more affordable. Over the last 50 years, computers have undergone a tremendous evolution based upon a world-changing idea known as ‘Moore’s Law’.
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore asserted that transistors, which are the fundamental building blocks of the microprocessor and pretty much the digital age as well, would decrease in cost and increase in performance at an exponential rate. In fact, Moore stated that the number of transistors on a chip would double around every two years.
The world’s first electronic general-purpose computer, the ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator), was completed in 1946. The computer annexed a massive 167 square meters of floor space and weighed an incredible 30 tons. Intel’s 4004 processor, first introduced in 1971, sported the same computing power as ENIAC, but packed a size amounting to the equivalent of one's little fingernail.
Pace of innovation floors the accelerator pedal
Since the release of the 4004, microprocessor innovation has kept pace with Moore’s Law. Modern 14 nm processors delivering 3500 times the performance of the 4004 at 90 000 times the efficiency and 1/60 000 th of the cost.
If the pace of automotive fuel efficiency moved at the speed of Moore’s Law, a person could easily drive a car for their entire life on a single tank of petrol. If your car decreased in size at the same pace at which transistors have shrunk down in size, making it the size of an ant in the current digital era.
The Apollo space program to land humans on the moon cost $25 billion. If prices fell at the pace of Moore’s Law, today that same program would cost about as much as a small private plane. Even more relevant for the man on the street is that if house prices fell at the same rate as transistors, a person could purchase a home for the price of a piece of candy.
Today there is a multitude of computing devices ranging from PCs, tablets and smartphones through to smart TVs, smartwatches and in-vehicle infotainment systems that are powered by microprocessors made up of transistors.
Many form factors delivering the same user experience
In the digital era, most of the processing power is migrating to the cloud, with consumers and employees utilising user interfaces on a myriad of compact devices and form factors. These mobile devices enable users to work and play while on the go.
Smart mobile devices, smartwatches, and even devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens mean that people can seamlessly access information, produce and consume media through cloud-based services by way of any of their devices.
These devices have dramatically decreased in cost and increased in performance as well as energy efficiency, thanks to Moore’s Law. Like PCs, these mobile computing devices will become an indispensable part of our lives, helping us stay productive from anywhere.