How ridiculously powerful our computer chips have gotten, in one chart

November 12, 2013

(Wikimedia Commons)

Moore's Law famously predicts the steady rise in the number of transistors that can fit on a computer chip. Every two years, the idea goes, that number doubles. Moore's Law has been so consistently reliable, as Google's research team points out, that technology companies have come to rely on it to build their long-term business plans.

It's a deceptively simple way to describe what's actually a mind-boggling phenomenon of engineering. It's hard to visualize, but the chart above helps put Moore's Law in great perspective. Remember the venerable Pentium computer chip, which saw many a PC through the 1990s? Released in 1993, it had 3.1 million transistors. Today, two decades later, the most powerful chips have close to 3 billion transistors, a nearly 1000-fold increase.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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