Go and delve into your garage, loft or draw-of-miscellany right now. What do you see? Well, what’s likely there before your eyes is a rather messy mass of once-cutting edge technology, gadgetry and hardware, all collecting dust after they were cast aside in favour of speedier, more stylish models. What you’ll likely notice is just how darn large everything is. Massive CRT PC monitors, two-inch-thick laptops and heavy, cumbrous phones, each and every one of them replaced by millimetre-thick, yet extraordinarily more powerful, replacements. Why? How!?
The key reason behind the shrinking of technology is a fifty year old observation called Moore’s Law. In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed and predicted that every two years the number of components fitted atop an integrated circuit would double. Processors, memory units, sensors, pixels; everything and anything that harks back to the humble microprocessor simply gets more powerful, whilst remaining the same size. Although the limit of the ‘law’ is set to arrive in ten or twenty years, currently slowing slightly, this means that we will have molecular or atomic-level processors by the time the observation’s time is up. Right now, we can pretty much conduct any activity via a computer chip, and any future advancements will be mainly utilised by those dealing with huge volumes of data. After then, quantum computing. After that, who knows?
When the first computers themselves were created during the second world war, they were tens of metres long and tall, chugging out the equivalent of a few bits a second or minute. Today, that same piece of technology, many orders of magnitude more powerful and far more intricate in it’s construction, fits in a watch or pair of glasses.
The obvious question one begs to ask when thinking about this magnificent rate of advance is simply; where will it lead? It’s a difficult question to answer. If you’d asked a person in the 1980s what they thought personal computers in 2015 would look like, their answer would be tinged by thoughts of bulky computers and trailing wires. As we know, that’s as far from the truth as one could possibly be.
In some ways, that’s the joy of Moore’s Law. You never know where it’ll take us, but wherever that place ends up being, it’s sure to be amazing!