``The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. ...it is interesting that it would be, in principle, possible (I think) for a physicist to synthesize any chemical substance that the chemist writes down. Give the orders, and the physicist synthesizes it. How? Put the atoms where the chemist says, and so you make the substance.''
--Richard Feynman, 1959
Over thirty years ago Richard Feynman pointed out that physicists knew no limits to prevent us from doing engineering at the level of atoms. His words are as true today as the day he spoke them.
Until recently, though, while the lack of physical limits was accepted as commonplace, molecular engineering was thought of as impractical, unnecessary, or requiring breakthroughs in knowledge and technique that placed it somewhere in the distant future.
Many visionaries intimately familiar with the development of silicon technology still forecast it would take between 20 and 50 years before molecular engineering became a reality. This is well beyond the planning horizon of most companies.
But recently, everything has begun to change.