Published in Processors

Forbes works out how many transistors have been made

by on27 May 2014

Hint: It is a jolly big number

Hacks at Forbes newspaper spent their memorial weekend holidays pondering how many transistors have been made since the technology became available. The first transistor was created in 1947 so that is a fair few number of years that the technology has been around and memory chips, which consist of more transistors than any other semiconductor, account for maybe half of all transistors shipped.

There have been about 16 billion gigabytes of DRAM have shipped since the early 1990s and 125 billion gigabytes of NAND flash have shipped since the early 2000s. Each year more chips are made than over its entire history combined. Prior to 2000 NAND flash had growth well in excess of 100 per cent, and in the early 1990s DRAM was in a similar position.

Gigabyte figures for NAND and DRAM could be turned into transistors shipped, then doubled the result using that assumption that half of all transistors are memory.

The result is that there have been 2,913,276,327,576,980,000,000 transistors shipped since the technology was invented. That’s 2.9 sextillion.

To put that number into perspective, there are only 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, and 100 trillion cells in the human body. The number is also bigger than Bill Gate’s bank balance and the weight of Steve Job’s ego which was said to be so dense it could bend light.

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