You might not feel it yet, but the pace of technological innovation just slowed down.
Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, has detailed a big change to the timeframe at which it makes the silicon that powers smartphones, computers and servers.
Instead of doubling the amount of transistors on a chip every 24 months — the so-called Moore’s Law that has driven the tech industry for decades — Intel now says the process will advance every 30 months.
The slowdown is not a huge surprise, given the challenges of manufacturing circuits and transistors at an increasingly tiny scale. The current state of the art circuits measure 14 nanometres, which is thousands of times smaller than a red blood cell. And while Intel officially detailed the changes in its most recent annual report, as noted by the Motley Fool, Intel executives have been talking about the change in its roadmap for months.
But the fact that Intel is admitting that it can no longer sustain the breakneck pace of Moore’s Law could cause ripples across the broader tech industry, from social networking to Hollywood special effects.
Many of the big innovations in tech today are possible because of the relentless advances in semiconductors. As chips become more powerful and less expensive, technology such as voice recognition, virtual reality and artificial intelligence become increasingly viable as mass-market commercial products.
Services such as Apple’s Siri and the Oculus Rift, for example, would not be possible without the silicon brawn to process all the necessary data and graphics that bring the magic to life. And every enhancement and improvement to those products — the next version of those products — arrive on the back of advancements in processing power.
That said, Moore’s Law has been slowing down pretty much since its birth, as Nathan Brookwood, a semiconductor expert with research and consulting firm Insight 64, points out. When the term was first coined in 1965, Moore’s Law posited that the number of transistors on a chip would double every 12 months. That timeframe was eventually extended to 18 months, then to 24 months and now to 3o months.
So Intel’s new schedule doesn’t mean that Moore’s Law is dead. But you might have to wait a little longer for the next killer gadget.