For the past 20 years we have lived through the information revolution, powered by the explosive growth of semiconductor integration and of the internet. The exponential performance improvement of semiconductor devices was predicted by Moore's law as early as the 1960s. There are several formulations of Moore's law. One of them is directed at the computing power of microprocessors. Moore's law predicts that the computing power of microprocessors will double every 18–24 months at constant cost so that their cost-effectiveness (the ratio between performance and cost) will grow at an exponential rate. It has been observed that the computing power of entire systems also grows at the same pace. This law has endured the test of time and still remains valid today. This law will be tested repeatedly, both now and in the future, as many people see today strong evidence that the “end of the ride” is near, mostly because the miniaturization of CMOS technology is fast reaching its limit, the so-called CMOS endpoint.
Besides semiconductor technology, improved chip designs have also fueled the phenomenal performance growth of microprocessors over the years. Historically, with each new process generation, the logic switching speed and the amount of on-chip logic have both increased dramatically. Faster switching speeds lead to higher clock rates. Aggressive chip designs also contribute to higher clock rates by improving the design of circuits or by pipelining the steps in the execution of an instruction.
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