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Atomic Silicon
Gabe Moretti

When Gordon Moore published his paper in 1965 about the trend in semiconductors devices design and fabrication he probably did not mean for the trend to continue for as many years as it has.  And after forty years, an eternity in our industry, there are signs that fitting reality to the projected curve might become not only difficult, but impossible.

A panel at the upcoming ICCAD conference, with the provocative title "More Moore: foolish, feasible, or fundamentally different" promises to be captivating and offer diverse opinions worth listening to.  To begin, the subject can be approached from a number of different angles: financial, electronic design, and manufacturing being the wider segments of interest.

But when I look at the financial aspect I can see issues that deal with both development costs, market life, profit margins, and capital investment.  And over all this looms the shadow of macro-economics, a true spaghetti bowl of interactions among the various socio-economic forces that exist in this ever shrinking world of nations and multi-national organizations.

When we look at the hurdles facing electronic design we must not only deal with the availability and capability of new tools and methods, but also with the sufficiency, or lack thereof, of knowledge imparted in our educational facilities and the maturity nurtured into students by the instructional methods used.  What is the limit of complexity an average engineer can handle?  Can new architectures solve the complexity problems by themselves?  Can our existing communication methods handle the coherent transmission of thoughts and concepts that are ever increasing in complexity and sophistication?  Are our languages, both natural and artificial, equal to the task?

Manufacturing semiconductor devices is a nanotechnology discipline, even if we seldom talk in those terms.  The limit of optical technology are both physical and practical.  What yields are we willing to tolerate in order to obtain a certain device?  How badly do we need it?  And in fact ,are these questions even answerable to the point to justify the investment required to develop the fundamental technology and equipment required to obtain the real answer?

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