Intel today announced the renaming of its Ronler Acres campus in Hillsboro, Oregon, to honor company co-founder Gordon Moore. Recognizing the site’s heritage of innovation, Intel will call the nearly 500-acre campus the Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres and its RA4 building The Moore Center.
Moore was Intel’s co-founder (with Robert Noyce). He’s the namesake of Moore’s Law – though he was far too humble to name it himself. And he had a huge role in the creation of Silicon Valley. If there was a Mount Rushmore for semiconductors, Moore would be on it.
Moore retired from Intel in 2006 after serving most recently as chairman emeritus. Now 93, he lives in Hawaii, with his wife of 72 years, Betty.
Intel’s archives and a recent interview with Michael S. Malone, longtime Silicon Valley journalist and author of the book “The Intel Trinity,” helped bring together this list of five things to know about Moore.
He was part of the ‘Intel trinity’ and Intel’s longest serving CEO and chairman.
Moore served initially as executive vice president of Intel, while Noyce was its first CEO. Moore became president and CEO in 1975 and held that post until elected chairman and CEO in 1979. He remained CEO until 1987 and was named chairman emeritus in 1997, a role he held until 2006.
Moore was often known to be the mediator between Noyce and Andy Grove (Grove was Intel’s first employee after Noyce and Moore, and he followed Moore as the company’s CEO). In Malone’s words, Moore, Noyce and Grove made up the “Intel trinity.”
According to Malone, Moore is also known to be incredibly precise (he hates exaggerations). He was a quiet leader who gave Intel the reputation for being cutting edge, for demanding the best and for having the utmost integrity.
He played a major role in making Silicon Valley what it is today.
Moore is a fifth-generation Californian, born and raised in the Bay Area. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate in chemistry and physics from the California Institute of Technology.
Before co-founding Intel, Moore and seven of his colleagues at Shockley Semiconductor formed Fairchild Semiconductor. Moore helped create and manufacture silicon transistors, as well as produce a complete circuit of planar transistors on a single piece of silicon. It was the world’s first microchip. As Fairchild was rapidly developing new technologies, employees were leaving at an equally rapid pace to create their own businesses.
Along came Intel (“Integrated Electronics”) in July 1968. Having left Fairchild and with financing help from Arthur Rock, Moore and Noyce invested $250,000 each in their new enterprise and raised another $2.5 million. Their first hire was Andy Grove. Moore, Noyce and Grove built a company that by 1971 had brought to market the first microprocessor, and by 1991 had become the world’s largest semiconductor company.
“Gordon built Silicon Valley from the ground up,” says Malone. “His legacy is the scientific spirit in Silicon Valley.”
He’s best known outside Intel for the creation of Moore’s Law – but that’s not all.
Moore claims that his career as an entrepreneur happened by accident, though it is no doubt that his wicked brain got him far. Moore made the prediction that would become Moore’s Law — that the number of transistors in a circuit would double every year — in 1965. In 1975, Moore revised it to every two years, and it has since become common shorthand for rapid technological change. Moore also played a major role in ensuring the law held true for years to come. (Interestingly, he did not want the law named after himself. Remember the reference to his quiet demeanor?)
Moore also played a major role in helping Intel shift from the memory business to microprocessors in the mid-1980s. Malone recalls a pivotal moment where Intel was faced with a dilemma: stay with the cash cow market, where it’s leading the memory business, or go after this monstrous potential opportunity with microprocessors. Malone says Moore and Grove were in a room together debating what to do. One said to the other, “If we were to walk out of this office and walk in as two other guys, what would we choose?” and they looked at each other and said, “We’d choose the microprocessor.” Malone said it was that crucial moment “that turned Intel into the most important company on Earth.”
Moore received several awards and recognitions during his career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation's highest civilian honor — from George W. Bush in 2002 and the National Medal of Technology from President George H. W. Bush in 1990.
Much of how Intel runs its business today can be traced to Moore.
- The coupling of technology development and manufacturing. At Intel, Moore fought to make the development-to-manufacturing transfer as efficient as possible, a tradition that carries through to this day.
- Investing through downturns. “One of my favorite things to say is that you never get well on the old products,” Moore said in “The Art of Business.” “You have to keep developing new products through the recession.” This strategy paid off for Intel several times, most recently by prior Intel CEOs Craig Barrett in the early 2000s and by Paul Otellini through the latter half of the same decade.
- Speed, speed and more speed. Moore recognized early that the companies earliest to market with new technology were the ones that survived. And when doing so, because the price of semiconductors falls so consistently, it’s imperative to move volume quickly. “Inventory rots,” Moore noted. “You put the thing on the shelf and the value decreases at the same rate. It’s kind of like a fresh fruit business.”
And just as it was during the company’s earliest days, Moore’s Law remains critical for Intel’s success.
Gordon and Betty Moore are among the United States’ most generous philanthropists.
The Moores have been longtime supporters of environmental conservation, patient care and discovery-driven science. In 2000, the couple founded the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with a $5 billion endowment, making it one of the largest private grantmaking foundations in the U.S. They have also given several large personal donations over the years, including two big gifts totaling $600 million to Cal Tech and $50 million to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.
In 2017, the foundation was recognized as the most generous donors in the state of California.