His famous observation “Moore’s Law” set the breakneck pace of progress in the digital age.
SAN FRANCISCO — Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel Corp. who set the breakneck pace of progress in the digital age with a simple prediction in 1965 about how quickly engineers would increase the capacity of computer chips, has died. He was 94.
Moore died Friday at his home in Hawaii Intel and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Moore, who had a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics, made his famous observation—now known as “Moore’s Law”—three years before he helped found Intel in 1968. It appeared among a series of articles on the future written for the defunct Electronics magazine by experts in various fields.
The prediction, which Moore said he drew on graph paper based on what was happening with chips at the time, said the capacity and complexity of integrated circuits would double every year.
Strictly speaking, Moore’s observation referred to the doubling of transistors in a semiconductor. But over the years it has been applied to hard drives, computer monitors and other electronic devices, suggesting that roughly every 18 months a new generation of products renders their predecessors obsolete.
It has become the standard for progress and innovation in the technology industry.
“This is the human spirit. It’s what created Silicon Valley, Carver Mead, a retired Caltech scientist who coined the term Moore’s Law in the early 1970s, said in 2005. – This is a real thing.
Moore later became known for his philanthropy when he and his wife created the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which focuses on environmental protection, science, patient care and projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since its inception in 2000, it has donated more than $5.1 billion to charitable causes.
“Those of us who met and worked with Gordon will forever be inspired by his wisdom, humility and generosity,” said foundation president Harvey Feinberg.
Moore was born in California in 1929. As a child, he was fascinated by chemistry sets.
After receiving his Ph.D. from Caltech in 1954, he briefly worked as a research fellow at Johns Hopkins University.
His introduction to microchips began when he went to work for William Shockley, who in 1956 shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of the transistor. Less than two years later, Moore and seven of his colleagues left the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory after growing tired of its namesake’s management practices.
The defection of the “Traitorous Eight,” as the group came to be known, sowed the seeds of Silicon Valley’s renegade culture, in which engineers who disagreed with their colleagues did not hesitate to become rivals.
Shockley defectors in 1957 created Fairchild Semiconductor, which became one of the first companies to produce an integrated circuit, perfecting the transistor.
Fairchild supplied the microcircuits that went into the first computers used by astronauts aboard spacecraft.
In 1968, Moore and Robert Noyce, one of the eight engineers who left Shockley, struck out on their own again. With $500,000 of their own money and the backing of venture capitalist Arthur Rock, they founded Intel, a name based on the combination of the words “integrated” and “electronics.”
Moore became Intel’s chief executive in 1975. His tenure as CEO ended in 1987, and he was expected to remain chairman for another 10 years. He was honorary chairman from 1997 to 2006.
He received the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush in 1990 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2002.
Despite his wealth and fame, Moore remained known for his modesty. In 2005, he called Moore’s Law “a lucky guess that got a lot more publicity than it deserved.”
He is survived by his wife Betty, sons Kenneth and Steven, and four grandchildren.