Intel Founder and Creator of Moore’s Law Gordon E. Moore Dies at 94 – Los Angeles Times
Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel Corp. and creator of Moore’s Law – the mantra of limitless technological growth that came to define the digital age – has died at the age of 94.
Moore died Friday at his home in Hawaii, according to the company and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
From humble roots as the son of the sheriff of Pescadero, California, Moore built Intel into one of the greatest technological powerhouses of the 20th century.
Moore, who was trained as a chemist, was one of the early pioneers in the manufacture of integrated circuits, the chips of silicon that have become the backbone of modern technology.
He was among the small group of engineers and scientists that included Nobelist William Shockley, one of the co-inventors of the transistor, and Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit, who put silicon into Silicon Valley.
But what separated Moore from many of his great peers was that he also had a mix of skills that extended far beyond mere technicality.
As Intel’s chairman, Moore guided the company with the homely demeanor and spirit of a Las Vegas gambler.
Choosing a risky path was something that came naturally to him, although he always said that his risks were obvious choices that had to be taken.
“This is a fast-moving business,” he once said in an interview. “Unless you are willing to take technical and financial risks, you are doomed. Things change so fast, if you don’t you die.”
Moore described himself as an “accidental entrepreneur”, though Intel’s success – and Moore’s status as one of the wealthiest men in the country due to his own Intel holdings – belied his modest assessment.
Although Moore’s co-founding of the microprocessor giant in 1968 ensured his place in the history of modern technology, he may be most famous for introducing what became known as Moore’s Law.
In 1965, Moore made a simple observation that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit appeared to double every year.
The integrated circuit had been invented only seven years earlier, and the most anyone was able to do was build about 50 transistors on the thin chips of silicon that powered the development of the electronics industry.
Looking at a graph of chip development, Moore moved this line 10 years ahead and predicted that by 1975 there would be 65,000 transistors on a single silicon chip. It seemed a ludicrously large number at the time, but Moore was right on target.
Moore revised his prediction several times during his life, eventually settling on a prediction that the number of transistors would double every 18 to 24 months instead of every year.
But although the exact equation of Moore’s Law was changed, the spirit of its rapid technological progress remained constant. It became the buzzword of the electronic world and the slogan of Digrati eagerly awaiting the next big thing.
Moore wrote in 1965, “Integrated circuits would lead to such wonders as home computers—or at least terminals connected to a central computer, automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment.”
Descendants of the first crude chips designed by Moore went on to power personal computers, automobiles, mobile phones, and even watches.
In a 1997 interview with Business Week, he said, “It’s kind of funny that Moore’s Law is what I’m best known for.” “It was a relatively simple observation.”
The accuracy of Moore’s Law became a cornerstone of business planning in the electronics industry.
Gordon Earl Moore hardly fits the image of a prophet of the digital age. He was down-home and practical, a simple, slightly bald scientist who maintained his small-town roots amid the heady pace of Silicon Valley.
Moore was born in San Francisco on January 3, 1929, to Walter and Florence Moore. The family eventually settled in Pescadero, about 30 miles south, where his father was chief deputy sheriff for the area.
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1950 and doctorates in chemistry and physics from Caltech in 1954, Moore moved on to an academic career.
After a brief stint at the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he went to work for Shockley in 1956, who had established his own company, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratories, to further develop the transistor. Shockley was a heavy-handed, temperamental and complacent manager. After working just a year, most of Moore and Shockley’s top scientists revolted.
The “Traitorous Eight”, as Shockley called them, broke away and started Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957. The creation of Fairchild was one of the turning points in electronics history, allowing Moore and others to conduct research that helped his partner, Robert Noyce. Designing a commercially viable process for miniaturizing entire circuits on a single silicon chip – integrated circuit.
Moore and Noyce left Fairchild in 1966 and formed their own company two years later to take advantage of the development of integrated circuits. He named his company Integrated Electronics but later shortened it to Intel.
With the help of Arthur Rock, Silicon Valley’s first army of venture capitalists, Noyce and Moore easily raised $2.3 million and got to work. Noyce served as chief executive officer of the new company with Rock as chairman and Moore as executive vice chairman.
Intel started by making memory chips and grew to profitability, adopting a corporate strategy of innovating at a breakneck pace so that it could charge a premium for its products.
Moore took over as Intel’s chief executive in 1975, just a few years before his company began to be battered by an influx of cheap memory chips from Japanese manufacturers that had turned Intel’s core product into a commodity.
Intel started cashing in and laying off employees. By the mid-1980s, Intel had begun to lag behind in the industry it had created.
By 1985, Moore also began to feel depressed. The recession, Moore told shareholders at the time, was “probably the greatest in the history of the semiconductor industry.”
“We’re removing the excesses of a badly overheated electronics industry,” he said. “What happened? Dame Fortune frowned. Intel should be in good shape and ready for when Dame Fortune smiles again.
In 1984 and 1985, Intel still spent over $1 billion on chip-manufacturing equipment and facilities. It was all part of Moore’s belief that staying in a leadership position was the key to success and that the company would eventually come back with a roar.
Moore and the company’s hard-charging president, Andrew S. Grove, began moving Intel away from cheap memory chips to higher-margin microprocessors — the brains of the computer.
In 1987, Moore left the chief executive position at Grove, although he remained active in guiding the company as chairman.
Moore also engaged himself as a member of the Caltech Board of Trustees and as a patron of the electronics industry.
In 1950, Moore married Betty Irene Whitaker, who survived him. Moore is survived by sons Kenneth and Steven and four grandchildren.