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From a story on the Memristor:

When Bell Telephone Laboratories announced the invention of the transistor in 1948, the press release boasted that “more than a hundred of them can easily be held in the palm of the hand.” Today, you can hold more than 100 billiontransistors in your hand. What’s more, those transistors cost less than a dollar per billion, making them the cheapest and most abundant manufactured commodity in human history. Semiconductor fabrication lines churn out far more transistors than the world’s farmers grow grains of wheat or rice.

3 Responses to “Weekend Thought: Our Material Abundance”

  1. RIT_Rich says:

    Yes but think of all the greed that went into it.

  2. Trey says:

    I’m in the semiconductor industry. Even then, these numbers always impress. Here’s an interesting tidbit about your dishwasher:

    “The ability to produce moderate functionality at incredibly low prices enables new mass markets (like the microprocessor running Linux in a microwave oven, or a dishwasher that has more compute power than existed in the world in 1950).”

    That’s from this article ca. 2005:


    Other quotes:

    ‘ Bob Noyce, co-founder of Intel, wrote in 1977 [7] “…further miniaturization is less likely to be limited by the laws of physics than by the laws of economics.” ‘ (I think physics and economics go hand-in-hand. See EUV below.)

    “Moore’s second law, the cost of new fabrication facilities seems to rise exponentially over time”. (Indeed. A $2B fab might be $200M for the building. The rest is equipment.)

    “[A] stepper in 1980 cost $500K, while a scanner today may run more than $10M.” (Scanners/steppers are the tools that project light through a photomask/template on to the wafer in the photolithography process. The next generation of scanners using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light are going to be > $100M. They first have to work 10-20x faster than they do today. They are mainly slow because it’s hard to produce EUV light, meaning physics.)

    “Moore’s Law is not a law; it is an act of will. Considerable effort is devoted to its continuation because there is a strong economic incentive to do so.”

  3. Rod says:

    I’m reminded here of a joke most people posting here have probably heard —

    What do you call a computer geek who wears a short-sleeve white shirt and a pocket protector ten years from now? Boss.

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