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The Story of Silicon: Are You a Character?

The Story of Silicon: Are You a Character?

Feb 8, 2007
Mary Hobson
Technology Schools Columnist

We are all familiar with the term "Silicon Valley," and most of us understand that much of our computing power depends on microchips made of silicon. But unless you have a degree in computer science, you might not realize the restrictions that silicon poses to researchers and developers. Read on to learn the history of silicon--and what it has to do with you.

Moore's Law

In 1965, Intel founder Gordon Moore made a famous prediction, called "Moore's Law." He believed that the number of transistors on a microchip would double every year, giving us faster, bigger chips and more processing power. So far, this has held true: when he first said it, the number of transistors on a chip was around 50 to 70. Today the number is somewhere near 1.7 billion, and the prediction is that it will be in the region of 10 billion by 2012.

Faster Semiconductors

There is, however, a lot more to be done, and demand for qualified workers in the industry is sky-high. For example, we don't yet have mass-produced technology that can communicate between microchips and other devices; work on "dual core" chips is in its early stages. Another example: using copper wire to transfer data slows down processing enormously. New solutions for this include silicon lasers on the microchips.

All of these developments and many others are increasing the possibility of smaller, faster and more complex computing power. Moore's Law is necessary in order to continue the rapid progress that has fueled our knowledge economy, so the development races are on.

If you want to be a part of these exciting long-term developments, you need to get qualified. Degrees and graduate qualifications in computer science and microelectronics give you the entry into the world of semiconductor research. Plan your education now, so that you can enter your career and work on the new products that will keep our economy ahead.


About the Author

Mary Hobson is the Head of IT School at a Polytechnic in New Zealand. She also works as a freelance writer.