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Mobile Phones and Moore’s Law

Nowadays it is a cliché to ask whether we know anybody who does not have a mobile phone, but in reality apart from a minority that do not possess one due to socio-economic factors, the fact that they are in prison, or simply due to a Luddite attitude, just about everybody in the UK does. Even our exclusion of those in prison is incorrect – a large number of prisoners do have access to mobile phones although it is illegal for them to use one.

The mobile phone is an example of how a combination of parallel developments in a number of different and disparate technologies, combined with a highly consumer orientated public that is possessed with a high level of aspiration, and set during times of economic boom, can lead to synergistically energized developments that exceed the usual product cycle timescales.

A well known feature of modern technological development is what is known as Moore’s Law. This was devised originally by Gordon Moore who was one of the original founders of Intel. Simply stated it says that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months. In fact this has been happening since 1965, though in 1975 it was revised to every 24 months. In effect it is saying that computer power is doubling every two years. Whether or not this can continue indefinitely is now called into question due to there being a limit as to how small things can be made, though a new approach called “Beyond Moore” takes account of this limitation and still predicts a similar scale of progress which is enabled by such developments as quantum computing.

It is rare that any technology can be shown to have exceeded Moore’s Law, but in fact the mobile phone is one of them. Although the fundamental technology development that underpins the progress from the early mobiles to the 3G and 4G Smart phones of today has followed Moore’s Law, the overall impact they have had on society has massively exceeded it.

The mobile phone has been with us for around 25 years and to date approximately 50% of the World’s population have one; that is approximately 3,400,000,000 people have one.
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