Today in the section ECONOMIA of the Barcelona newspaper LA VANGUARDIA, the journalist Josep Maria Ganyet has explained the “Moore’s Law” in a very ingenious way for a general public. Moore’s Law is the “law” that has most conditioned us (until now) in our world of Supercomputing research.

Here I leave the translation so that I can refer to it when I am asked to explain it to a general public :-) . In addition to a very endearing article, very didactic. Congratulations to the author!.

The second half of the board

For 10 years we have had smartphones, for 30 personal computers, and for 50 computers in companies. From those computers the size of a room to the computer we carry in our pocket have gone through several iterations of Moore’s law, which says that computers double their capacity every two years. Engineer Gordon Moore proposed it in 1965 by observing the evolution of the number of components in integrated circuits.

Moore’s law has three relevant aspects: its exponential growth, the time it takes in action (the longer, the more evident its effects) and our inability to understand it in its entirety. Our brain has been programmed during millions of years of adaptation to an environment -we call it evolution- where we do not observe phenomena of exponential change. The horse-drawn carriages did not double their speed with twice as many horses, the carriages do not go twice as fast with each new model and the planes do not fly twice as far with each generation of engines. This only happens with digital technologies.

Moore’s law was told to me by my father without knowing it when I was about ten years old, one day he was teaching me how to play chess. He told me that chess had been invented many years ago by a wise man in India and that the emperor wanted to reward him with whatever he asked of him. The sage said that he only wanted one grain of rice for the first square on the board, two for the second, four for the third, eight for the fourth and so on until he reached 64 squares (my father told me about wheat, which is from Concabella). The emperor marvelled at the humility of the sage and granted him the desire.

If you do the math you will notice that in the first half of the board the number of grains of rice per square remains relatively low for a long time. When we get to the middle of the board, the amount is already 2 ^ 32-1 grains of rice or, in other words, an entire field of rice. The problem (for the emperor) comes when we start the second part of the chessboard, that in each square we double the number of wheat fields of the previous one.

Since Moore made the observation about the number of components that fit in an integrated circuit in 1965, 53 years have passed, or in other words, 35 iterations of the law that bears his name. This means that in digital technologies we are already in the second half of the board where the pace of change is already the order of rice fields and not grains.

At the end of the board, the grains reach 2 ^ 64-1, or 246 times the world rice production of the 2016/2017 season. Humiliated, the emperor ordered the wise man to cut off his head.

Translated with

Source: “La segunda mitad del tablero”