The last half of the 20th century was an era of American business invention and economic leadership, and one of the men who defined that era and launched the digital economy was Gordon E. Moore. The co-founder of Intel Corp.
died Friday at the age of 94.
Moore was present at the creation of the innovation hub in Northern California that became known as Silicon Valley. After studying at UC Berkeley and Cal Tech and a stint at Johns Hopkins studying solid rocket propellant, he moved to California to work on the burgeoning technology of transistors in William Shockley’s semiconductor lab.
He soon left with others to join what became Fairchild Semiconductor, the company that spawned dozens of startups and out of which the Valley grew. In 1968, Moore and the legendary Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit, founded Intel, which combined technology with precision design and engineering to become the world leader in memory chips.
Moore became president in 1975 and CEO in 1979 through 1987 and remained chairman until 1997. As competition increased in Asia, Intel made another leap forward in the 1980s and 1990s by innovating in advanced microprocessors.
Moore is best known as the author of Moore’s Law, which stated that the number of transistors per silicon chip doubles every year. He later changed that to every two years, but the law has held up remarkably, despite the difficulty of placing transistors ever closer together. This has made it possible to put much more computing power in the hands of the average person than was thought at the beginning of the computer age.
It’s a sign of America’s relative economic decline that Intel is one of the companies that lobbied for subsidies in last year’s Chips Act. But that shouldn’t obscure the accomplishments of Noyce, Moore, later Intel CEO Andrew Grove, and others who enabled the advancements that transformed the global economy and contributed to the greatest and widest-ranging prosperity in human history.
Moore’s life and career are a reminder of a golden age in American entrepreneurship. The challenge of our time is to rediscover the educational standards and freedom that helped make his achievements possible.
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Appeared in the March 27, 2023 print edition.
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