Exploring the Growth of Computers: A Trip Through Time

This article kicks off a series exploring different aspects of technology and how they might shape the future of ag machinery.

by Chris Hunsaker, CEO and Founder of
Acuitus Ag, Inc.

Today, let’s travel back to 1957 for a unique history lesson on computing power and its relationship with cost. Why is this important? Trust me, it’s the foundation for understanding the upcoming technological shift and gaining perspective on what it means for you.

In the late 1950s, Gordon Moore, a fresh PhD in chemistry from John Hopkins University, ventured into the tech world at Shockley Semiconductor. After a few odd experiences with the company’s founder, William Shockley, Moore and his colleagues left, founding Fairchild Semiconductor. By 1965, Moore observed that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubled each year, a trend that would continue. He also noticed the cost of the integrated circuit decreasing as the number of transistors increased, a phenomenon now known as Moore’s Law. In 1968, Moore co-founded Intel.

Fast forward to 1975, Moore adjusted his prediction to doubling every two years. The progress was incredible – from one transistor in 1959 to over a billion in 2010! In 2020, Nvidia introduced a graphics processor unit with a whopping 54 billion transistors. The size of transistors in 2022 was approaching 3 nanometers (nm). For reference the diameter of a strand of human DNA is 2.5 nm!

David Brock from the Computer History Museum highlighted the mind-blowing reduction in computing prices and electronics costs saying this, “With computing devices made of microchips, the price of computing has fallen a million-fold, while the cost of electronics has fallen a billion-fold.”

In 1969, the Apollo Guidance Computer (APG) helped land astronauts on the moon. This computer weighed 70 pounds, sported 32,000 bits of ram and cost $200,000. Today, the $1,000 smartphone I carry around in my pocket weighs slightly more than half a pound and has 2.048 trillion bits of RAM!

“If the Apollo helped land humans on the moon in 1969, what is today’s computing power capable of?”

“If the Apollo helped land humans on the moon in 1969, what is today’s computing power capable of?” If the APG helped land humans on the moon in 1969, what is today’s computing power capable of? Some machines manufactured by members of FEMA already have computers on them called Programmable Logic Controllers, while others have no sort of computer at all.

Major tractor manufacturers have made splashes in recent years with prototypes of driver-less tractors, while countless startups in the ag machinery space are pushing robots, drones, etc, into the field. There’s a lot to unpack here, and we’ll continue this discussion in the next article. Can’t wait? Reach out to Chris@AcuitusAg.com or call 208-243-0135. Stay tuned for more!

Chris Hunsaker is Co-founder and CEO of Acuitus Ag, a software company engaged in improving the efficiencies of the world’s agricultural operations. He recently spoke at the Marketing & Distribution Convention in Kansas City.

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