Thinking Tech

Physics Nobel winners launched "Moore's Law of optics"

Physics Nobel winners launched "Moore's Law of optics"

Posting in Science

It's the operation of semiconductor economics on the inventions of Kao, Boyle and Smith that turned their creations into revolutions. It's partly because of such men as these that Moore's Law, and its impact on society, remain underestimated.

Moore's Law began with an invention, a silicon chip that could evolve to process billions of instructions each second.

What might be called the Moore's Law process always starts that way, with a basic invention that is subject to dramatic improvement through miniaturization.

Two such inventions were honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics today, the fiber optic cable and the Charged Coupler Device (CCD).

Both inventions, it turned out, were subject to the exponential improvements we think of as Moore's Law.

Kao's fibers were improved by diodes that could distinguish different colors within the light stream, multiplying a fiber's capacity many times. Boyle and Smith's CCDs were subject to the economics of semiconductors.

The BBC calls these men Masters of Light. It's an elegant term. In both cases these inventions subjected light to the patterns and economics of inventions like semiconductors, bringing light into the mainstream of electronics.

It's the operation of semiconductor economics on the inventions of Kao, Boyle and Smith that turned their creations into revolutions. It's partly because of such men as these that Moore's Law, and its impact on society, remain underestimated.

Once any basic discovery becomes subject to the economics of semiconductors its exponential improvements have a transforming effect.

Much the same thing happened with Digital Signal Processors (DSPs), a technology first used in toys just 30 years ago but now found in all electronics and communications systems. DSPs were such a rich vein of money that Texas Instruments, which pioneered the technology, abandoned processor chips to Intel in order to mine it.

What other basic inventions like these might transform our future, when subject to the effects of Moore's Law?

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure