Moore’s semiconductor prediction still driving us forward
By Nicole Neethling on 17 April 2020
I clearly recall an episode from the Timeless series, where agents go back in time to NASA in 1969. The agents found themselves standing in a room, housing central processing units, each which stood as tall and wide as double-door cupboards. A NASA scientist turned proudly towards her time-travelling guests, and with a broad smile announced, “our mainframes hold two megabytes of memory!”. And with a mainframe of that size, the Apollo 11 was launched to put the first man on the moon!
It is not surprising that soon after the rocket landed, co-Founder of Intel, Gordon Moore, noticed the pace at which microchips were developing, and predicted that the number of transistors that could be packed into one unit of silicon space, would double every two years. Once heard, this statement became a driving force for technological development, and even used for setting research targets throughout the industry. Moore’s simple yet powerful predication, that would revolutionise the microchip and semiconductor industry, and most technology that we know today, was soon dubbed Moore’s Law.
The basis of technology that Moore dealt with lies in the “nuts and bolts” of integrated circuits, called chips and transistors - only these "nuts and bolts" are microscopic and are made up of carbon and silicon. When these parts are put together perfectly, they allow electricity to move through a circuit faster, thereby creating quicker electronic signals, which ultimately creates a more efficient computer. So, the better these parts can be arranged in an integrated circuit, the easier it is to build smaller and faster computers that are cost efficient. The emergence of this integrated circuit tech has led to more efficient devices being built, from mobile phones, tablets and games to global positioning systems and even artificial intelligence.
It makes sense then, that for the last 50 years, the USA has been at the forefront of this technology and protecting their research and developments every step of the way. In the USA, patents can be used to protect integrated circuits. However, in South Africa, our tech fundi’s have the advantage of filing their arrangements of chips and transistors in an integrated circuit, as a functional design. This involves a simpler process compared to that of a patent, and the registration will give applicants a monopoly on their design for 10 years, at a fraction of the cost of a patent.
Whether your tech deals with artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or advanced wireless networks, chances are that you may be sitting with circuits that have a unique arrangement that can be protected and commercialised. If you would like to find out whether you have some unique technology, or better yet, know that you do, why not let us help you get your technology protected.
Moore was certain that development in this area would not easily die out. 50 years since his statement and having developed life-changing technology along the way, we still seem to only be scratching the surface of what is possible. In light of what is still to be developed in future, maybe we too are still only at the “two megabyte mainframe status”!
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