Enabling Information Technology - Empowering Moore's Law

Based on the insight of Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, Moore’s Law describes the exponentially advancing technology of the past half-century, specifically illustrated by the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit board — a quantity that doubles approximately every two years. Personal computing, in its various forms, has become the ubiquitous representation of digital technology’s penetration into every facet of our existence.

Some believe that Moore’s Law is finally approaching its limit, but the law is evident in the capacity of our digital electronic devices, from laptop processing speed to the number of pixels in digital cameras.


1950s — Ferrous-oxide-coated magnetic tape (0.5 in. wide by 1,200/2,400 ft. long) becomes the de facto standard for com­puters. In the 1980s, thinner Mylar film would allow for 3,600-ft. long tapes.

IBM’s tape drive vacuum column paved the way for magnetic tape to become a popular storage medium. Prior to the vacuum column, fragile magnetic tape was plagued by breakages as it was subjected to sudden starts and stops. IBM devised a solution where the tape was held down by a vacuum during these rapid accelerations and decelerations. Its use in the IBM 701 signaled the beginning of the era of magnetic storage, for its buffering technique would become widely adopted throughout the industry. (IBM)

1967 — The first multi-level computer control system capable of selecting its operating parameters achieves a refinery’s targeted fluid catalytic cracking performance. (IBM; Esso Research and Engineering)

1968 — Solid photoresists and dry polymeric light-resistant films are produced, allowing for precise and convenient reproduction of intricate circuitry. (E. I. DuPont)

1970s — Silicon microchips are mass-produced; devices are nanofabricated using single ultra-pure-silicon crystals cut from 8-in.- diameter by 5-ft.-long wafers (2000s). (AT&T; Texas Instruments)

1972 — Urban gaseous and particulate pollutants are successfully modeled. The models would evolve to include photochemical ozone from automobile exhausts. (California Institute of Technology)

1973 — Robust glass optical fibers are developed. By 1986, erbium-doped optical fiber amplifier would significantly reduce the need for optical-electrical-optical repeaters. (Bell Laboratories)

1976 — Thin-film liquid crystal displays with picture elements driven by their own individual transistors enter the television and other mass markets. (RCA Corporation)

1977 — Increased disk storage mandates the use of lithographic techniques to make magnetic heads for reading and recording data. (U.S. Philips Corp.)

1981 — Advanced System for Process Engineering (ASPEN) is commercialized. ASPEN-developed software models and analyzes integrated processes from detailed design elements to their costs. (MIT Energy Lab / U.S. Dept. of Energy [DOE] funding [1976–1981])

1981 — First commercial PC-based process simulation software is developed (HYSIM). (Hyprotech)

1989 — Silicon germanium (SiGe) chip, with germanium included in the base layer of silicon chips, are commercialized, allowing for faster performance at lower cost. (IBM)

1992 — Aluminum oxide and molybdenum or tungsten for interconnecting computer chips is supplanted by fewer, smaller and faster cordierite glass-ceramic and copper layers. (IBM)

1998 — Fast, relatively inexpensive microfluidic devices are produced using soft lithography (rapid prototyping and replica molding) in poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS). (Harvard Univ.)

2000 — Integrated chips having 20 layers of semicon­ductor, dielectric, and conducting films, with individual features of 0.5 µm, are developed. (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.)

2003 — Full economic potential for process intensification — integrating multiple operations into a single unit — is achieved with model-predictive-controlled divided-wall columns. (BASF)