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Less Is Moore 342

Hugh Pickens writes "For years, the computer industry has made steady progress by following Moore's law, derived from an observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore that the amount of computing power available at a particular price doubles every 18 months. The Economist reports however that in the midst of a recession, many companies would now prefer that computers get cheaper rather than more powerful, or by applying the flip side of Moore's law, do the same for less. A good example of this is virtualisation: using software to divide up a single server computer so that it can do the work of several, and is cheaper to run. Another example of 'good enough' computing is supplying 'software as a service,' via the Web, as done by, NetSuite and Google, sacrificing the bells and whistles that are offered by conventional software that hardly anyone uses anyway. Even Microsoft is jumping on the bandwagon: the next version of Windows is intended to do the same as the last version, Vista, but to run faster and use fewer resources. If so, it will be the first version of Windows that makes computers run faster than the previous version. That could be bad news for computer-makers, since users will be less inclined to upgrade — only proving that Moore's law has not been repealed, but that more people are taking the dividend it provides in cash, rather than processor cycles."
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Less Is Moore

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  • by rminsk ( 831757 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:22PM (#26642817)
    Moore's law does not say "that the amount of computing power available at a particular price doubles every 18 months." Moore's law says that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit increase exponentially, doubling approximately every two years.
  • Re:Bad Logic (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:24PM (#26642849) Homepage Journal

    Um, no it wasn't. "Moore's law" is a term that was coined after Thomas Moore gave a presentation showing that the company was managing to double transistor density each month. This observation created an interesting problem for the company. What should they do with all those extra transistors?

    One option was that they could keep getting higher yields on existing chips, eventually driving the cost per unit to mere fractions of a penny. The other option was that Intel could do something useful with all that extra circuitry and maintain higher prices.

    Considering that contemporary CPUs of the time were barely more powerful than the interrupt controller sitting next to them, using that silicon for sophisticated 32bit processors with on-die floating point units and SIMD instructions seemed like a no-brainer for the company. Thus as each successive generation of technology has made CPUs smaller, Intel has used the extra space to add more features and more optimizations.

    At this point, things are getting a bit ridiculous. CPU manufacturers have so much extra space on which to work that they can fit 2-4 CPU cores on a single die and STILL produce a smaller chip than the last generation.

  • Re:Bad Logic (Score:5, Informative)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @03:37PM (#26643047) Journal

    And now I'm going to do something shocking and unprecedented. I'm going to look-up the actual quote, instead of guessing what Moore's "Law" means.

    "April 1965:

    "The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year ..." Notice he claimed *complexity* not power doubled, and that it happened EVERY year. His original statement has not held true.

  • Re:Bad Logic (Score:4, Informative)

    by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:11PM (#26643651)

    If you only installed Office 2008 for the new file formats, you can wipe it and go back to whatever ancient version you were using, as there are updates available which add support for the new xml based format. Obviously the old binary format must be so much that I'm not sure what my point was any more.

  • by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@ja w t h e s h a r k . com> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:38PM (#26644069) Homepage Journal
    Just filling in the gaps: Source []
    • 5000$ in 1980 = 12889.87$ in 2008
    • 2500$ in 1990 = 4063.22$ in 2008
    • 1000$ in 1997 = 1323.52$ in 2008

    Now, let's take the Asus EEE PC (280$) in 1990. In 1990 you would have paid 172.28$ for that. That's a PC that would have beaten your top-of-the-line 2500$ 1990 PC to smithereens. (The i486 came out in 1989!))

  • Re:Let's see (Score:3, Informative)

    by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot AT pitabred DOT dyndns DOT org> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:44PM (#26644189) Homepage
    They aren't the same on Ubuntu:
    moo@you:~$ ls -l /bin/more
    -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 30316 2008-09-25 07:08 /bin/more
    moo@you:~$ ls -l /usr/bin/less
    -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 120884 2008-02-01 20:51 /usr/bin/less
  • Re:Bad Logic (Score:2, Informative)

    by alexborges ( 313924 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @04:50PM (#26644313)

    ooo 3 reads them perfectly as far as ive seen.

  • Re:Let's see (Score:3, Informative)

    by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:05PM (#26644557) Journal

    From a quick check of systems within easy reach...

    They are the same on OSX, FreeBSD, OpenBSD

    They're different on Solaris, and more is nonexistent on Centos afaict.

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:23PM (#26644811) Homepage Journal

    Nope. That's a symlink. less is 'symlinked' to more. If it were a hard link, then 'less is more' would literally be true.

  • Re:Bad Logic (Score:4, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:27PM (#26644889) Homepage Journal

    Actually, it's called Moore's law because he plotted it in his 1965 paper while at Fairchild semiconductor.

    "The complexity for minimum component costs has in
    creased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year (see graph on next page). Certainly over the short term this rate
    can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the
    longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly
    constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost
    will be 65,000.
    I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single

    "CPU manufacturers have so much extra space on which to work that they can fit 2-4 CPU cores on a single die and STILL produce a smaller chip than the last generation."

    Either you put that poorly, or you have no idea how a fab works.
    There is no extra space.

  • Re:Bad Logic (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @06:30PM (#26645875) Homepage

    My own opinion is that it sets the limit for where they can stop and relax their efforts, internally.

    They can never stop and relax. They're chasing an exponential growth curve.

    Given the amount of secrecy in this industry, I'm not certain how you can back this statement up with any fact. My own assumption is that 'they' have developed technology far more capable than what they currently claim to be working on at any given time. I personally believe that what they claim is on the drawing board is actually in prototype, what they claim to be in dev is actually ready for production, and their 'latest and greatest' is already old tech.

    I've worked at several processor companies with top-of-the-line fab tech, including Mr. Moore's. While my NDAs probably mean I can't tell you anything specific with regard to scheduling, I can tell you without fear of revealing any secrets that you're way off base. They are not sand-bagging with more advanced tech waiting in the wings.

    The only sense in which you are correct is that the 'latest and greatest' thing you can buy is old tech relative to things then under development. That's because there's typically a year give or take (usually give) between receiving the first silicon from the fab in the transistor node the product was designed for and all the validation, bug fixes, and spins on the product before it's ready to be sold. That means the fab tech has to be done and mostly stable by the time you start this process, so go roughly six months back before that where they're making test chips in the new fab to make sure it's working. And development of that fab tech before it's ready to run its first test chip wafer is two or more years before that, with R&D going on for years before that.

    So yeah, when you could buy a 65nm CPU in the store, there may have been a 45nm CPU or just a test chip coming out of a fab somewhere, and a 32nm lithography machine being developed somewhere else, and a lab somewhere working out how 22nm lithography would work. But that's not 'sandbagging' because all of those things were years of serious non-stop development away from becoming products! Keeping on the exponential growth curve means that there has to be a constant pipeline of developments, and this pipeline is quite long.

    And believe me, if they could increase the rate at which those future techs become available for making product, they would. "Sandbagging" means wasting competitive advantage, and wasting money. The machinery in the fabs for each node cost billions of dollars, and they depreciate rapidly. If they had some new tech working flawlessly, but weren't using it in products and just waiting in the wings, they'd be flushing hundreds of millions down the toilet. Time to market is one of the most important things they look at.

    Honestly, if you look at actual press releases and actual product launches, it's much more likely that what they claim is a prototype is really on the drawing board, and what they claim to be ready for production is really still in development -- see the AMD Barcelona for the most recent example. You think they had the Phenom II just waiting in the wings while they got beat up in the press and the market over the launch of Phenom?

    Now this isn't to say that they wouldn't sandbag if it were possible, and to some minor extent they have. When K7 had a big leg up over P3 in frequency headroom, or Core 2 vs aging K8s, sure they held back a little to get more margin on a cheaper part. But we're talking a speed grade delayed by a month or two. Barely noticeable noise on the curve. Actually tracking that curve requires non-stop expenditures and execution of R&D, and any significant slip-up could send a company flat on its face. To slow development on purpose? Ridiculous.

    In my mind, this is the only way to sustain this curve - by limiting the release of new technology onto the market until Moore's says that it is time for it.

    Think about it in terms of l

  • by John Sokol ( 109591 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @07:15PM (#26646467) Homepage Journal

    > first version of Windows that makes computers run faster than the previous version.

    So now it will only be 10x slower then Linux instead of 100x for the same operations.

  • by M0b1u5 ( 569472 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @07:53PM (#26647031) Homepage

    For goodness sake, Moore's law never specified anything to do with "computing power"!

    Moore observed that typically the number of transistors doubled ||on the lowest price process|| around every 2 years.

    At least the poster got something right: the cost of the process.

    But, it's not a law AT ALL; it's a self-fulfilling prophecy! Manufacturers know the target they have to hit (Moore's!) and they do everything they can to hit it. Anything less would result in company failure.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.