Chips and a lifelong passion

Gordon Moore of Intel has been improving silicon chip technology for 29 years - and he still has no plans to retire.

Gordon Moore loves to fish. Whenever his schedule allows, he enjoys nothing more than packing his rod and heading for San Francisco Bay for a day on the water. "If it swims, I'll fish for it," he declares with a smile.

Such a peaceful, reflective pastime is a world away from the frenetic industry with which he has been associated for the past 29 years. As chairman of the chip giant Intel, Moore has been in the driving seat of a company that has brought computing to the masses. Under his guidance, Intel has grown from scratch into an organisation with annual revenues in excess of $20bn.

Many expected the 68-year-old to withdraw from company life when he handed the reins to the current president and chief executive officer, Andy Grove, in 1987 - but not so. He continues to spend three days each week working in the company's offices, and travels regularly to attend meetings and conferences.

"I suppose if I wanted to do something else I could, but I can't really think of anything," he says. "We are changing a lot of the world and I am able to participate in it - that's very exciting."

Moore co-founded Intel with Robert Noyce in 1968. Serving initially as executive vice-president, he became president and CEO in 1975 and then chairman and CEO in 1979 - a position he retained until 1987.

During this time, Moore witnessed the birth and growth of the microchip - the device at the heart of every personal computer on the planet. From relatively simple beginnings, Intel's chips have grown in power and complexity to the point where they now contain around 4.5 million transistors and can perform millions of operations per second.

But for someone whose efforts helped to create the computers of today, Moore's entry into the chip industry happened almost by accident. He started out studying chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a BSc. From there he progressed to the California Institute of Technology, where he was awarded a PhD in chemistry and physics. After that, an academic career appeared virtually certain.

"I started out in a scientific research career, but I found myself calculating the cost per word to the taxpayer of the articles I was producing, and wondered if anyone was actually reading them," Moore recalls. "So I figured I should get involved in something a little more practical.

"Quite by accident I caught up with Bill Shockley [of Bell Labs], who was setting up a semiconductor company. It sounded interesting, although I didn't know very much about it, as it was very early days in the industry. I got a start there and have really been following the evolution of the technology ever since."

On deciding that chip manufacturing was to be his business, Moore joined forces with Noyce, and Intel was born. In the subsequent years, the company grew almost as rapidly as the number of components on its chips. Observing this trend in 1965, Moore fashioned a law that has remained accurate ever since. Named after him, it states simply that the power of the microprocessor will double every two years.

Despite its now-proven accuracy, Moore wasn't sure about his law when it was first devised. "This was very early days and the most complex chip we had in the lab at that time had a total of about 60 components on it," he said. "This was just a few years after the first integrated circuit and I was trying to predict what was going to happen for the next 10 years - not an easy task."

At that time chips were doubling in complexity and power every year, so Moore extrapolated from 60 to 60,000 components on a single chip. "We have stayed amazingly close to that growth ever since, so I guess I was correct."

Looking into the future, Moore expects his law to continue to hold true. "I think about two or three generations of the technology, which is about a decade, is about as far ahead as you can really see. Beyond that it gets fairly fuzzy," he says.

The law's continuing integrity depends on two things: increasing the density of transistors on a chip, and increasing the surface area of the chip itself.

"I do, however, think there is the possibility that it [Moore's Law] may slow down a bit because we won't want to grow the chip size any more - not because we can't, but because the cost has to increase. So instead of doubling every two years it may start doubling every three years or so; but the underlying trend will still be there."

From a technical perspective, Moore is still as excited about chip technology as he was at the beginning. He enthusiastically follows every development and is impatient for the future. While some people predict that microprocessors will soon reach their performance limit, Moore disagrees.

"It has looked that way in the past, but as you get closer to what you think is the limit, that limit starts to recede," he says. "There will continue to be a tremendous amount of effort in the next few years, and the limit simply won't be there when we reach it. Eventually it will be the atomic nature of matter that will really be the limitation of how small we can go, but that won't happen for a while yet."

Moore admits that his preoccupation with chip technology means he has limited time to monitor the impact of these developments on the outside world. However, he is convinced that computer technology will continue to change the lives of everyone on the planet - and that Intel will continue to play a pivotal role.

"We are certainly microprocessor-centric, but we are looking out in all directions to see what we can do to accelerate the need for more powerful computers," he comments. "The market has to grow if we are going to continue to grow; we can't really continue just by growing market share."

As yet, Moore has no plans for retirement and will continue to involve himself in the activities of the company he has nurtured for almost 30 years. "I think I get more out of Intel than Intel gets out of me these days," he musesn

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions