Prof. Tom Misa at the Wilson Lecture Series

Moore’s Law, 1965-2016

Everyone knows that technology drives history, but what shapes technology?  A leading contender is Moore’s Law, initially offered as a prophesy by Gordon Moore in 1965.  It expanded into a full-blown force in technology owing to dramatic changes within the semiconductor industry, three key policy shifts in the US federal government, and the rise of national and international roadmapping efforts (NTRS and ITRS) across the semiconductor industry.  The deep enthusiasm for globalization supported Moore’s Law for nearly three decades.  Indeed, Moore’s Law looked unstoppable — until the arrival of a “thermal wall” at Intel and AMD around 2004, then the rise of complex multi-core CPUs (that prompted a “hard toggle” with “scaling dead”). Roadmapping no longer focused on “device size” (and speed and density); ITRS was terminated in 2016. The successor efforts to ITRS — the IEEE’s IRDS and “Rebooting Computing” initiatives seem (to me) not so strongly industry-centered.  Still active, Rock’s Law leads to semiconductor “fabs” costing upwards of $20 billion: this talk starts with a glimpse inside.

About the speaker

Tom Misa directed the University of Minnesota’s Charles Babbage Institute (2006-17), teaching in the Program for the History of Science, Technology & Medicine and a faculty member in the ECE department. He was President of the international Society for the History of Technology (2019-20) and is presently Past President; he is publishing articles on women in computing in Communications of the ACM and elsewhere. The Johns Hopkins University Press recently published Leonardo the Internet (3rd edition), from which this talk is drawn.


Start date
Thursday, May 5, 2022, 4 p.m.
End date
Thursday, May 5, 2022, 5 p.m.