I Want to SEE Moore’s Law

When I first pulled my iPad out of its box and held it, I said, “This little thing has more computing power than most spacecraft.” Pretty sure that’s true; most spacecraft are pretty old and it takes a long, long time to get a chip certified for space. Still, It’d be fun to have some facts. There’s no single metric to compare computers, but I’d still be interested in a chart of computer power through the ages. How does my iPad compare to an IBM 360, a classic mainframe (it’s no contest, really, but how many times faster is the iPad)? How far to go yet before my phone threatens Cray’s numbers?

Somewhere out there, some geek/historian must be compiling this kind of info. I searched a little bit but it was all about fastest on the planet. Consumer devices (other than game boxes which are only compared to other game boxes) need not apply. But those guys are missing the true revolution: that our phones and cars and DVD players are wicked-fast computers. Supercomputers are being measured in petaflops these days. Big Whoop. I’ve got a phone that can understand my words.

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One thought on “I Want to SEE Moore’s Law

  1. I did another search for some sort of comprehensive list of processor power through the ages, and I stumbled across this article about a crisis in chip design. It says that heat is a real problem with modern chip design and that there’s no way we’re going to keep advancing at the rate we are.

    I first read that article in roughly 1983.

    Interestingly, modern chips actually power down sections temporarily to reduce power consumption (and therefore heat generation). Rolling blackouts are closer than you think.

    Will heat limit the growth of superchips? Maybe. But the New Computer Revolution doesn’t use superchips. It uses really efficient pretty-damn-good chips that don’t run the battery down in your phone. Power consumption is a critical metric of your processor, but not for the reasons outlined in this article.

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