Gordon Moore: Software is too complex

Moore's Law has helped keep the IT industry riding along on ever faster and more complex hardware for 40 years, but its author now says the software side of the equation needs some serious work

Gordon Moore, who famously coined the law that has described — and to some extent driven — the increasing power of computer chips over the past 40 years, warned on Wednesday that in one sense at least computers have got just too complicated.

The Intel co-founder and former chief executive was not talking about the hardware, but the other part of IT: the software. In a telephone conference from Hawaii to mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of his paper that laid the foundations for his law, Moore said graphical users interfaces are becoming too complex for people to make effective use of the underlying power of their computer.

Moore stopped short of naming Microsoft specifically, but with Microsoft software running on an estimated 90 percent of desktop computers the inference was clear. "The capability of computers keeps growing and the number of applications running keeps increasing, but the people building the interface keep growing the complexity of that," said Moore. "It's not for lack of effort but the software people are losing ground." He added that he would like a much simpler interface "but I don't know what it would look like."

The revelation is particularly ironic in the light of Moore's acknowledgement that his law has been a driving factor in the electronics industry. "It is a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said, "that the [hardware] industry recognises it has to go that fast."

Moore wrote his seminal paper for the 19 April, 1965 edition of Electronics magazine. At the time he was director of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductor and had yet to leave to form Intel with Andy Grove. At the time commercial integrated circuits had 30 components on them, and those in the labs already had 60, prompting Moore to observe that the number of components on an integrated circuit would double every year. A decade later he revised this to a doubling every two years and later another Intel employee re-interpreted the law in its populist form, which says that computing power will double every 18 months.

Read the full story in Gordon Moore's own words here.

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