"How Moore’s Law Works" by Jonathan Strickland

There’s a joke about personal computers that has been around almost as long as the devices have been on the market: You buy a new computer, take it home and just as you finish unpacking it you see an advertisement for a new computer that makes yours obsolete. If you’re the kind of person who demands to have the fastest, most powerful machines, it seems like you’re destined for frustration and a lot of trips to the computer store.

While the joke is obviously an exaggeration, it’s not that far off the mark. Even one of today’s modest personal computers has more processing power and storage space than the famous Cray-1supercomputer. In 1976, the Cray-1 was state-of-the-art: it could process 160 million floating-point operations per second (flops) and had 8 megabytes (MB) of memory.

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Consumers also drive Moore’s Law. The rapid development of electronics has created a sense of expectation among consumers. Every year, faster and more advanced electronics hit the market. From the consumer’s point of view, there’s no reason not to expect something better next year.

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/moores-law.htm