Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, a pioneer in the semiconductor industry whose “Moore’s Law” predicted a steady increase in computing power for decades, died Friday at the age of 94 years, the company said.
Intel (INTC) and the Moore Family Charitable Foundation said he died surrounded by his family at his home in Hawaii.
Co-launching Intel in 1968, Moore was the rolled-up-sleeve engineer in a triumvirate of tech luminaries who eventually installed “Intel Inside” processors in more than 80% of the world’s personal computers.
In an article he wrote in 1965, Moore observed that, thanks to technological improvements, the number of transistors on microchips had roughly doubled every year since integrated circuits had been invented a few years earlier.
His prediction that the trend would continue became known as “Moore’s Law” and, later amended every two years, it helped push Intel and rival chipmakers to aggressively target their computing resources. research and development to ensure that this rule of thumb is realized.
“Integrated circuits would lead to such marvels as personal 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. years before Apple launched the iPhone.
After Moore’s article, chips became more efficient and cheaper at an exponential rate, helping to drive much of the world’s technological progress for half a century and enabling the advent not only of personal computers, but also of Internet and Silicon Valley giants like Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG).
“It’s really nice to be in the right place at the right time,” Moore said in an interview circa 2005. “I was very lucky to get into the semiconductor industry when it was just starting out. I had the opportunity to go from when we couldn’t make a single silicon transistor to when we put 1.7 billion on a single chip!
In recent years, Intel competitors such as Nvidia (NVDA) have argued that Moore’s Law no longer holds because improvements in chip manufacturing have slowed.
But despite manufacturing stumbles that have cost Intel market share in recent years, current CEO Pat Gelsinger said he believes Moore’s Law still stands as the company invests billions of dollars. in an effort to recover.
Although he predicted the PC movement, Moore told Forbes magazine that he didn’t buy a personal computer himself until the late 1980s.
A native of San Francisco, Moore earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics in 1954 at the California Institute of Technology.
He went to work at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory where he met future Intel co-founder Robert Noyce. As part of the “treacherous eight”, they left in 1957 to start Fairchild Semiconductor. In 1968, Moore and Noyce left Fairchild to start the memory chip company that would soon be called Intel, short for Integrated Electronics.
Moore and Noyce’s first hire was fellow Fairchild colleague Andy Grove, who would lead Intel through much of its explosive growth in the 1980s and 1990s.
Moore described himself to Fortune magazine as an “accidental entrepreneur” who had no burning desire to start a business – but he, Noyce and Grove formed a powerful partnership.
While Noyce had theories on how to solve chip engineering problems, Moore was the person who rolled up his sleeves and spent countless hours tweaking transistors and refining Noyce’s broad and sometimes ill-defined ideas. , efforts that have often paid off. Grove rounded out the group as an Intel operations and management expert.
Moore’s obvious talent also inspired other engineers working for him, and under his and Noyce’s leadership, Intel invented the microprocessors that would usher in the personal computer revolution.
He served as executive chairman until 1975, although he and CEO Noyce considered each other equals. From 1979 to 1987, Moore served as chairman and chief executive officer and he remained chairman until 1997.
In 2023, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $7.2 billion.
Moore was a lifelong sport fisherman, pursuing his passion all over the world and in 2000 he and his wife, Betty, started a foundation focused on environmental causes. The foundation, which has undertaken projects such as protecting the Amazon River Basin and salmon streams in the United States, Canada and Russia, was funded by Moore’s gift of some $5 billion. in Intel stock.
He also gave hundreds of millions to his alma mater, the California Institute of Technology, to keep it on the cutting edge of technology and science, and supported the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project known as SETI.
Moore received a Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in 2002. He and his wife have two children.