A semiconductor industry pioneer and Intel Corp. Co-Founder Gordon Moore, who invented “Moore’s Law”, which predicted a steady rise in computing power for decades, has died at the age of 94.
According to Intel and Moore’s family philanthropic foundation, he died on Friday at his home in Hawaii.
Moore propagated "Moore's Law" three years before he helped start Intel in 1968. Earlier in 1965, he observed with improvements in technology, the number of transistors on microchips had roughly doubled every year since integrated circuits were invented a few years before.
His projection of the law helped push Intel and rival chipmakers to aggressively target their research and development resources to make sure that rule of thumb came true.
Moore had said he plotted out on graph paper based on what had been happening with chips at the time and added that the capacity and complexity of integrated circuits would double every year.
“Integrated circuits will 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,” Moore wrote in his paper, two decades before the PC revolution and more than 40 years before Apple launched the iPhone.
After Moore’s article, chips became more efficient and less expensive at an exponential rate, helping drive much of the world’s technological progress for half a century and allowing the advent of not just personal computers but the internet and Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Facebook, and Google.
“It sure is nice to be at the right place at the right time,” Moore said in an interview around 2005. “I was very fortunate to get into the semiconductor industry in its infancy. And I had an opportunity to grow from the time when we couldn’t make a single silicon transistor to the time when we put 1.7bn of them on one chip! It’s been a phenomenal ride.”
Moore later became known for his philanthropy when he and his wife established the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which focuses on environmental conservation, science, patient care, and projects in the San Francisco Bay area. It has donated more than $5.1 billion to charitable causes since its founding in 2000.
Moore received a Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, from president George W Bush in 2002.
"Those of us who have met and worked with Gordon will forever be inspired by his wisdom, humility, and generosity," foundation president Harvey Fineberg said in a statement.
Early life and brush with microchip
Moore was born in California in 1929. As a boy, he took a liking to chemistry sets.
After getting his Ph.D. from the California University of Technology in 1954, he worked briefly as a researcher at Johns Hopkins University.
His entry into microchips began when he went to work for William Shockley, who in 1956 shared the Nobel Prize for physics for his work inventing the transistor. Less than two years later, Moore and seven colleagues left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory after growing tired of its namesake's management practices.
The defection by the "traitorous eight," as the group came to be called, planted the seeds for Silicon Valley's renegade culture, in which engineers who disagreed with their colleagues didn't hesitate to become competitors.
The Shockley defectors in 1957 created Fairchild Semiconductor, which became one of the first companies to manufacture the integrated circuit, a refinement of the transistor.
Fairchild supplied the chips that went into the first computers that astronauts used aboard spacecraft.
Intel came into existence
In 1968, Moore and Robert Noyce, one of the eight engineers who left Shockley, again struck out on their own. With $500,000 of their own money and the backing of venture capitalist Arthur Rock, they founded Intel, a name based on joining the words "integrated" and "electronics."
Moore became Intel's Chief Executive in 1975. His tenure as CEO ended in 1987, though he remained chairman for another 10 years. He was chairman emeritus from 1997 to 2006.
He received the National Medal of Technology from President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2002.
Despite his wealth and acclaim, Moore remained known for his modesty. In 2005, he referred to Moore's Law as "a lucky guess that got a lot more publicity than it deserved."
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Betty, sons Kenneth and Steven, and four grandchildren.