April 19, 1965 Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Electronics,
published 1930 - 1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
I believe this April 19, 1965
article in Electronics magazine by Gordon E. Moore was the very first
instance of what has come to be known as "Moore's Law." His opening statement, "The
future of integrated electronics is the future of electronics itself," might seem
obvious in retrospect, but remember that at the time the world was struggling -
primarily psychologically and emotionally - with a transition from vacuum tubes
to semiconductors. There was a lot of resistance to the replacement of tubes. He
further prognosticated, "Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers...,"
and, "That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum
cost will be 65,000. I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single
wafer." In the age of germanium and silicon, Mr. Moore wrote that gallium Arsenide
(GaAs), a semiconductor compound almost nobody had ever heard of, would be necessary
for high frequency, high power devices, including integrated multiple-stage amplifiers.
Did the man call it or what? BTW, is the title meant to be a pun?
Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits
Dr. Gordon E. Moore is one of the new breed of electronic engineers,
schooled in the physical sciences rather than in electronics. He earned a B.S. degree
in chemistry from the University of California and a Ph.D degree in physical chemistry
from the California Institute of Technology. He was one of the founders of Fairchild
Semiconductor and has been director of the research and development laboratories
The experts look ahead...
The future of integrated electronics is the future of electronics itself. The
advantages of integration will bring about a proliferation of electronics, pushing
this science into many new areas.
Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers - or at least
terminals connected to a central computer - automatic controls for automobiles,
and personal portable communications equipment. The electronic wristwatch needs
only a display to be feasible today.
But the biggest potential lies in the production of large systems. In telephone
communications, integrated circuits in digital filters will separate channels on
multiplex equipment. Integrated circuits will also switch telephone circuits and
perform data processing.
Computers will be more powerful, and will be organized in completely different
ways. For example, memories built of integrated electronics may be distributed throughout
the machine instead of being concentrated in a central unit. In addition, the improved
reliability made possible by integrated circuits will allow the construction of
larger processing units. Machines similar to those in existence today will be built
at lower costs and with faster turn-around.
Present and Future
By integrated electronics, I mean all the various technologies which are referred
to as microelectronics today as well as any additional ones that result in electronics
functions supplied to the user as irreducible units. These technologies were first
investigated in the late 1950's. The object was to miniaturize electronics equipment
to include increasingly complex electronic functions in limited space with minimum
weight. Several approaches evolved, including microassembly techniques for individual
components, thin-film structures and semiconductor integrated circuits.
Each approach evolved rapidly and converged so that each borrowed techniques
from another. Many researchers believe the way of the future to he a combination
of the various approaches.
The advocates of semiconductor integrated circuitry are already using the improved
characteristics of thin-film resistors by applying such films directly to an active
semiconductor substrate. Those advocating a technology based upon films are developing
sophisticated techniques for the attachment of active semiconductor devices to the
passive film arrays. Both approaches have worked well and arc being used in equipment
Integrated electronics is established today. Its techniques are almost mandatory
for new military systems, since the reliability, size and weight required by some
of them is achievable only with integration. Such programs as Apollo, for manned
moon flight, have demonstrated the reliability of integrated electronics by showing
that complete circuit functions are as free from failure as the best individual
Most companies in the commercial computer field have machines in design or in
early production employing integrated electronics. These machines cost less and
perform better than those which use "conventional" electronics.
Instruments of various sorts, especially the rapidly increasing numbers employing
digital techniques, are starting to use integration because it cuts costs of both
manufacture and design.
The use of linear integrated circuitry is still restricted primarily to the military.
Such integrated functions arc expensive and not available in the variety required
to satisfy a major fraction of linear electronics. But the first applications arc
beginning to appear in commercial electronics, particularly in equipment which needs
low-frequency amplifiers of small size.
In almost every case, integrated electronics has demonstrated high reliability.
Even at the present level of production-low compared to that of discrete components-it
oilers reduced systems cost, and in many systems improved performance has been realized.
Integrated electronics will make electronic techniques more generally available
throughout all of society, performing many functions that presently are done inadequately
by other techniques or not done at all. The principal advantages will be lower costs
and greatly simplified design-payoffs from a ready supply of low-cost functional
For most applications, semiconductor integrated circuits will predominate. Semiconductor
devices are the only reasonable candidates presently in existence for the active
elements of integrated circuits. Passive semiconductor elements look attractive
too, because of their potential for low cost and high reliability, but they can
be used only if precision is not a prime requisite.
Silicon is likely to remain the basic material, although others will be of use
in specific applications. For example. gallium arsenide will be important in integrated
microwave functions. But silicon will predominate at lower frequencies because of
the technology which has already evolved around it and its oxide, and because it
is an abundant and relatively inexpensive starting material.
Costs and Curves
Number of components per integrated circuit vs. relative manufacturing
Reduced cost is one of the big attractions of integrated electronics. and the
cost advantage continues to increase as the technology evolves toward the production
of larger and larger circuit functions on a single semiconductor substrate. For
simple circuits, the cost per component is nearly inversely proportional to the
number of components, the result of the equivalent piece of semiconductor in the
equivalent package containing more components. But as components are added, decreased
yields more than compensate for the increased complexity, tending to raise the cost
per component. Thus there is a minimum cost at any given time in the evolution of
the technology. At present, it is reached when 50 components are used per circuit.
But the minimum is rising rapidly while the entire cost curve is falling (see graph
below). If we look ahead five years, a plot of costs suggests that the minimum cost
per component might be expected in circuits with about 1,000 components per circuit
(providing such circuit functions can be produced in moderate quantities). In 1970,
the manufacturing cost per component can be expected to be only a tenth of the present
The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly
a factor of two per year (see graph on p. 116). Certainly over the short term
this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term.
the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe
it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the
number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000.
I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer.
With the dimensional tolerances already being employed in integrated circuits,
isolated high-performance transistors can be built on centers two thousandths of
an inch apart. Such a two-mil square can also contain several kilohms of resistance
or a few diodes. This allows at least 500 components per linear inch or a quarter
million per square inch. Thus, 65,000 components need occupy only about one-fourth
a square inch.
On the silicon wafer currently used, usually an inch or more in diameter, there
is ample room for such a structure if the components can be closely packed with
no space wasted for interconnection patterns. This is realistic, since efforts to
achieve a level of complexity above the presently available integrated circuits
are already underway using multilayer metallization patterns separated by dielectric
films. Such a density of components can be achieved by present optical techniques
and does not require the more exotic techniques, such as electron beam operations,
which are being studied to make even smaller structures.
Increasing the Yield
This is probably the first presentation of Moore's Law - a square
law relationship between time and number of components per integrated function.
There is no fundamental obstacle to achieving device yields of 100%. At present,
packaging costs so far exceed the cost of the semiconductor structure itself that
there is no incentive to improve yields, but they can be raised as high as is economically
justified. No barrier exists comparable to the thermodynamic equilibrium considerations
that often limit yields in chemical reactions; it is not even necessary to do any
fundamental research or to replace present processes. Only the engineering effort
In the early days of integrated circuitry, when yields were extremely low, there
was such incentive. Today ordinary integrated circuits are made with yields comparable
with those obtained for individual semiconductor devices. The same pattern will
make larger arrays economical, if other considerations make such arrays desirable.
Will it be possible to remove the heat generated by tens of thousands of components
in a single silicon chip?
If we could shrink the volume of a standard high-speed digital computer to that
required for the components themselves, we would expect it to glow brightly with
present power dissipation. But it won't happen with integrated circuits. Since integrated
electronic structures are two-dimensional, they have a surface available for cooling
close to each center of heat generation. In addition, power is needed primarily
to drive the various lines and capacitances associated with the system. As long
as a function is confined to a small area on a wafer, the amount of capacitance
which must be driven is distinctly limited. In fact, shrinking dimensions on an
integrated structure makes it possible to operate the structure at higher speed
for the same power per unit area.
Day of Reckoning
Clearly, we will he able to build such component-crammed equipment. Next, we
ask under what circumstances we should do it. The total cost of making a particular
system function must be minimized. To do so, we could amortize the engineering over
several identical items, or evolve flexible techniques for the engineering of large
functions so that no disproportionate expense need be borne by a particular army.
Perhaps newly devised design automation procedures could translate from logic diagram
to technological realization without any special engineering.
It may prove to be more economical to build large systems out of smaller functions,
which are separately packaged and interconnected. The availability of large functions,
combined with functional design and construction, should allow the manufacturer
of large systems to design and construct a considerable variety of equipment both
rapidly and economically.
Integration will not change linear systems as radically as digital systems. Still,
a considerable degree of integration will be achieved with linear circuits. The
lack of large-value capacitors and inductors is the greatest fundamental limitations
to integrated electronics in the linear area.
By their very nature, such elements require the storage of energy in a volume.
For high Q it is necessary that the volume be large. The incompatibility of large
volume and integrated electronics is obvious from the terms themselves. Certain
resonance phenomena, such as those in piezoelectric crystals, can be expected to
have some applications for tuning functions, but inductors and capacitors will be
with us for some time.
The integrated r-f amplifier of the future might well consist of integrated stages
of gain, giving high performance at minimum cost, interspersed with relatively large
Other linear functions will be changed considerably. The matching and tracking
of similar components in integrated structures will allow the design of differential
amplifiers of greatly improved performance. The use of thermal feedback effects
to stabilize integrated structures to a small fraction of a degree will allow the
construction of oscillators with crystal stability.
Even in the microwave area, structures included in the definition of integrated
electronics will become increasingly important. The ability to make and assemble
components small compared with the wavelengths involved will allow the use of lumped
parameter design, at least at the lower frequencies. It is difficult to predict
at the present time just how extensive the invasion of the microwave area by integrated
electronics will be. The successful realization of such items as phased array antennas,
for example, using a multiplicity of integrated microwave power sources, could completely
Posted July 6, 2022