Was Moore's Law Inevitable?

kk.org
8 min read
fairly easy
In the early 1950s the same thought occurred to many people at once: things are improving so fast and so regularly, there might be a pattern to the improvements. Maybe we could plot technological progress to date, then
[Translations: Hebrew]

extrapolate the curves and see what the future holds. Among the first to do this systemically was the US Air Force. They needed a long-term schedule of what kinds of planes they should be funding, but aerospace was one of the fastest moving frontiers in technology. Obviously they would build the fastest planes possible, but since it took decades to design, approve, and then deliver a new type of plane, the generals thought it prudent to glimpse what futuristic technologies they should be funding.

So in 1953 the Air Force Office of Scientific Research plotted out the history of the fastest air vehicles. The Wright Brothers' first flight reached 6.8 kph in 1903, and jumped to 60 kph two years later. The air speed record kept increasing a bit each year and in 1947 the fastest flight passed 1,000 kph in a Lockheed Shoot Star flown by Colonel Albert Boyd. The record was broken four times in 1953, ending with the F-100 Super Sabre doing 1, 215 kph. Things were moving fast. And everything was pointed towards space. According to Damien Broderick, the author of "The Spike", in 1953 the Air Force…

Charted the curves and metacurves of speed. It told them something preposterous. They could not believe their eyes. The curve said they could have machines that attained orbital speed… within four years. And they could get their payload right out of Earth's immediate gravity well just a little later. They could have satellites almost at once, the curve insinuated, and if they wished — if they wanted to spend the money, and do the research and the engineering — they could go to the Moon quite soon after that.

It is important to remember that in 1953 none of the technology for these futuristic journeys existed. No one knew how to do go that fast and survive. Even the most optimistic die-hard visionaries did not expect a lunar landing any sooner than the proverbial "Year 2000." The only voice telling them they could do it was a curve on a piece of paper.…
Kevin Kelly
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