50 years of Moore’s Law: increasing PR power in a shrinking world

Joe McNamara looks at the impact of Moore's Law on the world we know it 50 years after its conception.

Yesterday, Sunday 19th April 2015, marked the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law, when Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention. He predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future, a prediction that was later revised to approximately every two years in 1975.

In layman’s terms, Moore’s Law states that the components used to make technology devices double in terms of power, but don’t increase in terms of size. Therefore, technology devices can double in power and halve in size over the course of two years.

The true significance of the Moore’s Law story is better told through devices. The first ‘personal computer’ was released in 1965, the same year Gordon Moore made his prediction. The Programma 101 weighed 35.5kg, the average weight of an 11 year old boy, and had the same pre-pubescent mental storage capacity with just 240 bytes of memory. All it was really good for was calculations, but 10 of these big babies went to the moon in NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing.

To put this into perspective, modern laptops can weigh less than a kilogram and pack about 4GB of RAM (Random access memory) – just under 4.3 billion bytes. We can swallow up 16GB, which is over 17 billion bytes, in a month using a smartphone the size of our palm. And everything will still happen a hell of a lot faster.

How Moore’s Law has changed PR and publishing

Before we talk about PR, story-telling and brand communications, we have to recognise the impact of Moore’s Law on the way we communicate in a general sense. Over the span of 50 years we’ve gone from fixed landline telephones to smartphones that are more powerful than the computing systems on Apollo 11. We started out with letters, played with fax machines for a while and arrived at email, instant-messaging and social media.

How about the way we consume content? In 1969, there were three television channels (BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV) in the UK all showing the same thing. If you missed the live coverage, you had to watch the news the next day or read about it in the morning paper. Nowadays, you could watch it on your smartphone live or whenever you wanted, read all the media coverage of it online and see what famous people have to say about it on Twitter. Buzz Aldrin would probably post a selfie with Old Glory to Instragram – #nofilterneeded.

The impact of technology has changed the way we communicate, consume content and behave in a profound way. For the world of PR, this has radically changed the way we tell our stories. Publishers now have to consider how their content will be viewed and engaged with differently in print, online, mobile browsers, apps, and on social media.

I’m not a huge fan of the old ‘the press release is dead’ argument. There is no doubt though that while developing an interesting narrative is key, finding ways of telling that story effectively across the different mediums available is crucial. Stories now have to be told in real time and publishers have adapted to become more agile, reporting on stories in phases as they break and new information comes to light.

Moore change awaits

These changes all sound like challenges but really they are opportunities. Moore’s Law has made audiences far more accessible to brands. Furthermore, however you look at it, people are engaging more with content on their preferred channel – whether they’re tucking into long-form print articles in the bath or flying through Twitter feeds on their commute.

Moore’s Law is set to continue for at least another 10 years. Think about the world in 2005 – no Twitter, Facebook still confined to American high schools and the world had two years still to wait for the first iPhone.

While it’s hard to imagine the pace of change getting faster, it’s naïve to think that we’ve reached a plateau. There’s no saying the next 10 years won’t lead to even more dramatic levels of transformation.

As the world becomes increasingly mobile and technology permeates our lives more and more, Moore’s Law will continue to have a profound effect on the way people engage with content and ultimately brands.  

Joe McNamara

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search