Thursday, July 18, 2024

Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel behind Moore’s Law, dies at 94

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Gordon E. Moore, co-founder and former president of Intel, the California semiconductor chip maker that helped give Silicon Valley its name and achieve the kind of industrial dominance held by American railroad giants or steel companies in another era, has died. Friday at his home in Hawaii. He was 94 years old.

was his death announced by Intel and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. No reason has been specified.

Along with a few colleagues, Mr. Moore can claim credit for bringing portable computers to hundreds of millions of people and integrating microprocessors into everything from bathroom scales, toasters, and toy fire engines to cell phones, cars, and jet planes.

Mr. Moore wanted to be a teacher but could not get a job in education. He later called himself an “accidental entrepreneur” because he became a billionaire as a result of an initial investment of $500 in the fledgling microchip company, which turned electronics into one of the largest industries in the world.

His colleagues said that he was the one who saw the future. In 1965, in what became known as Moore’s Law, he predicted that the number of transistors that could be placed on a silicon chip would double at regular intervals for the foreseeable future, thus greatly increasing the data processing power of computers.

He later added two corollaries: evolving technology would make computers more and more expensive to build, yet consumers would be charged less and less for selling more of them. Moore’s Law has stood for decades.

Through the combination of Mr. Moore’s brilliance, drive, charisma, and connections, as well as his partner and Intel co-founder, Robert Noyce, the two have assembled a group widely regarded as among the most daring and innovative technicians of the technology age.

It was this group that advocated the use of miniature, thin silicon wafers, a highly polished, chemically treated, sandy material—one of the most common natural resources on Earth—for what turned out to be silicon’s incredible hospitality in smaller housings and smaller electronic circuits that could operate at higher and higher speeds. .

With its silicon microprocessors, the brains of the computer, Intel enabled American manufacturers in the mid-1980s to retake the lead in the vast field of computer data processing from its formidable Japanese competitors. By the 1990s, Intel had put its microprocessors in 80 percent of the computers manufactured worldwide, becoming the most successful semiconductor company in history.

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Much of this happened under Mr. Moore’s direction. He was CEO from 1975 to 1987, when he was succeeded by Andrew Grove, and remained Chairman until 1997.

As his fortune grew, Mr. Moore also became a major figure in philanthropy. In 2001, he and his wife set up the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with a donation of 175 million Intel shares. In 2001, they donated $600 million to Caltech, the largest single gift to an institution of higher education at the time. The foundation’s assets currently exceed $8 billion, and it has donated more than $5 billion since its founding.

In interviews, Mr. Moore has been characteristically modest about his accomplishments, particularly the technical advances made possible by Moore’s Law.

“What I could see was that semiconductor devices were the way electronics were going to get cheap. That was the message I was trying to get across,” he told journalist Michael Malone in 2000. ever.”

Not only could Mr. Moore expect electronics to become much cheaper over time, as the industry shifted from transistors and discrete tubes to silicon microchips; His predictions over the years have proven so reliable that tech companies have based their product strategy on the assumption that Moore’s Law would hold.

“Any company doing rational multi-year planning had to assume that rate of change or it would drive it,” said Harry Sall, a longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

“This is his legacy,” said Arthur Rock, an early investor in Intel and a friend of Mr. Moore. “It’s not Intel. It’s not the Moore Foundation. It’s that phrase: Moore’s Law.”

Mr. Moore during the early days of Intel. A few years ago, he had predicted that the number of transistors that could be placed on a silicon chip would double at regular intervals, which became known as Moore’s Law.credit…Intel

Gordon Earl Moore was born on January 3, 1929 in San Francisco. He grew up in Pescadero, a small seaside town south of San Francisco, where his father, Walter, was a deputy sheriff and his mother’s family, Florence Almira (Williamson) Moore, ran the general store.

Mr. Moore attended San Jose State College (now San Jose State University), where he met Betty Whitaker, a journalism student. They married in 1950. In the same year, he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in chemistry. In 1954, he received his doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

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One of the first jobs he was offered was as a manager at Dow Chemical. “They sent me to a psychiatrist to see how that would fit. The psychiatrist said I was technically fine but I couldn’t manage anything,” Mr. Moore wrote in Engineering & Science in 1994.

So Mr. Moore took a position at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore. Then, looking for a way back to California, he interviewed at Lawrence Livermore’s lab in Livermore, California. He was offered a job, he wrote, “but I decided I didn’t want to take spectra of detonating nuclear bombs, so I turned around.”

Instead, in 1956, Mr. Moore joined William Shockley, the inventor of the transistor, to work for the West Coast division of Bell Labs, a fledgling unit whose goal was to make cheap silicon transistors.

But the company, Shockley Semiconductor, foundered under Mr. Shockley, who had no experience running a company. In 1957, Mr. Moore and Mr. Noyce joined a group of defectors who became known as the “Traitorous Eight”. With $500 each put down, along with $1.3 million in backing from aircraft pioneer Sherman Fairchild, the eight men left to form the Fairchild Semiconductor Company, which became a leading manufacturer of integrated circuits.

Bitten by an entrepreneurial mistake, Mr. Moore and Mr. Noyce decided in 1968 to create their own company, focusing on memory semiconductors. They wrote what Mr. Moore called a “very general” business plan.

He said in 1994, “He said we were going to work with silicon and make interesting products.”

Despite their vague proposal, they had no problem finding financial support.

With a capital of $2.5 million (equivalent to about $22 million today), Mr. Moore and Mr. Noyce named the startup Integrated Electronics, a name they later shortened to Intel. The third employee was Mr. Groff, a young Hungarian immigrant who worked under Mr. Moore at Fairchild.

After some hesitation about which technology to focus on, the three men settled on a newer version of MOS (metal-oxide semiconductor) technology called gate silicon MOS. To improve the speed and density of the transistor, they used silicon instead of aluminum.

“Fortunately, we have come up with a technology that has the right degree of difficulty for a successful startup,” Mr. Moore wrote. “This is how Intel began.”

In the early 1970s, Intel’s 4000 series “computer-on-a-chip” started the personal computer revolution—although Intel itself missed the opportunity to make a PC, which Mr. Moore blamed in part on his shortsightedness.

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“Long before Apple, one of our engineers came to me with the suggestion that Intel should make a home computer,” he recalls. And I asked him, “What would anyone really want a computer in their home?” “

However, he saw the future. In 1963, while working at Fairchild as Director of Research and Development, Mr. Moore contributed a chapter to a book describing, without explicit numerical prediction, what was to become the precursor to his eponymous law. Two years later, he published an article in Electronics, a trade journal with the title “Cramming More Components Into Integrated Circuits”.

“The article made the same argument as the book chapter, with the addition of this clear numerical prediction,” said David Brock, co-author of Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, a Quiet Revolutionary in Silicon Valley (2015).

Mr Brock said: There is little evidence that many people read the article when it was published.

“He kept talking with these diagrams and plots, and people started using his slides and reproducing his diagrams,” said Mr. Brock. Then people saw this phenomenon happen. Silicon microchips are becoming more complex, and their cost has fallen.”

In the 1960s, when Mr. Moore was getting his start in the electronics business, a single silicon transistor sold for $150. Later, $10 will buy more than 100 million transistors. Mr. Moore once wrote that if cars advanced as fast as computers, “they would get 100,000 miles to the gallon and it would be cheaper to buy a Rolls-Royce than to park it. (The cars would also be half an inch long.)”

Among Mr. Moore’s survivors are his wife; Two sons, Kenneth and Stephen. and four grandchildren.

In 2014, Forbes estimated Mr. Moore’s net worth at $7 billion. However, he remained unflattering throughout his life, preferring worn shirts and khakis to tailored suits. He shopped at Costco and kept a bunch of fly baits and fishing reels on his desk.

Moore’s Law is bound to come to an end, as engineers face some basic physical limits, as well as the prohibitive cost of building factories to achieve the next level of miniaturization. And in recent years, the pace of miniaturization has slowed.

Mr. Moore himself commented from time to time on the inevitable end of Moore’s Law. “It can’t go on forever,” he said in a 2005 Techworld interview. “The nature of grief is that you push them out and eventually disaster strikes.”

Holcomb B. Noble, former science editor at The Times, died in 2017.

Rosario Tejeda
Rosario Tejeda
"Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver."

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