The Man Behind Moore’s Law

Gordon Moore in 2008. Photo by OnInnovation, Flickr

IBM has announced that it has made the world’s most powerful computer chip. The breakthrough “could lead to a 50% performance and power boost over chips that are on the market today, effectively keeping Moore’s Law more or less intact for the time being,” Quartz reported. This Scientific American excerpt of the biography Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary, by Arnold Thackray, David C. Brock and Rachel Jones, reveals the 86-year-old billionaire who made the observation 50 years ago, and went on to change the world:

He is one of the world’s most exceptional achievers, yet he has consistently avoided opportunities to raise his profile. When Intel was named Electronics Company of the Year, his right-hand man, Andy Grove, beamed straight into the photographer’s lens at the awards presentation. Moore— Intel’s CEO—was mostly out of the frame, doing “something inscrutable in the margins.” Internally driven and governed by the ticking of his watch, Moore believed his vision had global consequence yet worked quietly, within miles of where he was born and raised, eschewing the trappings of wealth and fame. His pursuit of revolutionary electronics brought extraordinary change, even as—with remarkable focus—he stuck to his knitting, doing one single important thing to the best of his ability. The logo “Intel Inside” speaks both of transistors and of Gordon Moore.

Whereas Larry Ellison, Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and a host of other immigrants to Silicon Valley command media attention, Moore has chosen to stay low-key. He has always known who he was, understood what he needed to do, and stayed on task. As far back as the mid-1970s, he was pointing to silicon electronics as “a major revolution in the history of mankind, as important as the Industrial Revolution.” With his immediate colleagues, he was at its leading edge and foresaw how the transistor would leverage the power of human intellect. With a modesty that belied his passion, tenacity, and clarity of vision, Gordon Moore built one of the world’s most successful companies, demonstrated the power of silicon technology, and established the relentless cadence of Moore’s Law.

Read the excerpt