US scientist and entrepreneur. Although he planned to become an academic chemist, Moore instead became one of the pioneers of the semiconductor industry, serving as director of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductor. In 1968 he left Fairchild and co-founded, with US entrepreneur Robert Noyce, the microchip manufacturer Intel.
In 1965, when writing an article for the 35th anniversary edition of Electronics magazine, Moore formulated what has since been named Moore's Law: the number of components that could be squeezed onto a silicon chip would double every year. Moore updated this prediction in 1975 from doubling every year to doubling every two years. These observations proved remarkably accurate – the processing technology of 1996, for example, was some 8 million times more powerful than that of 1966 – partly because chip manufacturers tried to keep up with Moore's Law so as to avoid falling behind their rivals.
In 2000 Moore donated $5 billion – nearly one-fifth of his wealth – to create a foundation in San Francisco funding scientific, environmental, and educational ventures, called the Gordon E and Betty I Moore Foundation.
Moore was born in San Francisco and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in chemistry in 1950. He joined Caltech to undertake postgraduate research and was awarded a PhD in chemistry and physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1954. He then worked at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University before joining Shockley Semiconductors, where he met Noyce, in 1956. Meeting US executive Sherman Fairchild, who was the founder of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, Moore set up the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. Whilst at Fairchild, Moore wrote the article for Electronics magazine on the future of the semiconductor industry.
Frustrated by management problems at Fairchild, Moore and Noyce resigned to start Intel in 1968, with $5 million in venture capital, $2.5 million of which was raised by the legendary US venture capitalist Arthur Rock. That year a Japanese manufacturer, Busicom, sought a semiconductor partner and asked Intel to design a set of chips for a family of high-performance programmable calculators. Busicom's original design called for 12 custom chips for each calculator, but Intel rejected the proposal and instead designed a single chip that retrieved its application instructions from semiconductor memory. Busicom initially owned all the rights to microprocessors, but got into financial trouble and sold the rights to the chips back to Intel for $65,000.
In 1971 Intel went public and introduced its first commercial chip, the 4004 microprocessor set, which was smaller than a thumbnail and delivered as much computing power as the first electronic computer. This was followed by the 8008 microcomputer, which processed eight bits of information at a time, twice as much as the original chip. By 1981 Intel's microprocessor family included the 16-bit 8086 and the eight-bit 8088. The latter two chips won an unprecedented 2,500 design awards in a single year. In 1982 Intel introduced the 286 chip, which provided about three times the performance of other 16-bit processors of the time and was the first microprocessor to offer software compatibility with its predecessors.
Moore served initially as executive vice-president of Intel, becoming president and CEO in 1975 and chair in 1979. Having retired in 1989, he was named chairman emeritus in 1997, working several days a week in his old working cubicle at Intel.
He is a director of Gilead Sciences Inc., a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineers. He also serves on the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology. He received the National Medal of Technology in 1990, the Lester Center Award for Lifetime Achievement in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2001, and the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honour, from George W Bush in 2002.
Computing: The Mechanics of an Electronics Industry
Related Credo Articles
In 1965, while working at Fairchild Semiconductor as R&D director, Gordon Moore made a prediction in an obscure magazine. Computer...
A founder of the Intel Corporation. ...
A founder of the Intel Corporation. ...