Intel co-founder Gordon Moore passed away on March 25, 2023, at the age of 94. Moore was a pioneer in the semiconductor industry and a renowned engineer who co-launched Intel in 1968.
He was also known for predicting the exponential growth of computing power through his observation that the number of transistors on microchips had roughly doubled every year since integrated circuits were invented a few years before, a phenomenon that became known as “Moore’s Law.”
Moore’s prediction played a significant role in driving the world’s technological progress for half a century, paving the way for the personal computer revolution, the internet, and Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Facebook, and Google.
Despite manufacturing stumbles that caused Intel to lose market share in recent years, current CEO Pat Gelsinger believes that Moore’s Law still holds, and the company is investing billions of dollars in a turnaround effort.
Moore was a San Francisco native who earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics in 1954 at the California Institute of Technology. He worked at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, where he met future Intel co-founder Robert Noyce. They departed in 1957 to launch Fairchild Semiconductor and, in 1968, left Fairchild to start the memory chip company soon to be named Intel, an abbreviation of Integrated Electronics. Moore and Noyce’s first hire was another Fairchild colleague, Andy Grove, who would lead Intel through much of its explosive growth in the 1980s and 1990s.
“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.
In recent years, Intel rivals such as Nvidia have contended that Moore’s Law no longer holds as improvements in chip manufacturing have slowed down.
Moore described himself as an “accidental entrepreneur” who had no burning urge to start a company, but he, Noyce, and Grove formed a powerhouse partnership. While Noyce had theories about 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 often paid off. Grove filled out the group as Intel’s operations and management expert.
He was executive president until 1975 although he and CEO Noyce considered themselves equals. From 1979 to 1987 Moore was chairman and CEO and he remained chairman until 1997.
Moore was also a passionate sport fisherman who pursued his hobby all over the world. He and his wife, Betty, started a foundation in 2000 that focused on environmental causes, including protecting the Amazon River basin and salmon streams in the United States, Canada, and Russia. The foundation was funded by Moore’s donation 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 at the forefront of technology and science, and backed the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project known as SETI.
Moore received numerous awards throughout his lifetime, including a Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in 2002. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $7.2 billion in 2023. Moore is survived by his wife, Betty, and their two children.