Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, a pioneer in the semiconductor industry whose “Moore’s Law” predicted a steady rise in computing power for decades, died Friday at the age of 94, the company announced.
Intel (INTC) and philanthropist Moore’s family said he died surrounded by family at his home in Hawaii.
Co-launching Intel in 1968, Moore was the engineer involved within the triumvirate of light-sleeve technologies that later put “Intel Inside” processors in more than 80% of the world’s personal computers.
In an article he wrote in 1965, Moore observed that, due to improvements in technology, the number of transistors in microchips has nearly doubled every year since integrated circuits were invented a few years earlier.
His prediction that the trend would continue became known as “Moore’s Law” and, subsequently revised every two years, helped push Intel and rival chipmakers to aggressively attack their research and development capabilities to ensure that rule of thumb came true.
“Integrated systems will lead to such wonders with home computers – or at least terminals connected to a central computer – the car, the car, the personal portable communication device,” Moore wrote in his paper, two decades before the PC revolution and more than forty years before the Apple iPhone was launched.
After Moore’s article, chips became more efficient and less expensive at an exponential rate, helping to drive much of the world’s technological progress for half a century and enabling the advent of not only personal computers, but the Internet and Silicon Valley giants like Apple ( AAPL ), Facebook ( FB ) and Google (GOOG).
“It’s definitely nice to be in the right place at the right time,” Moore said in an interview around 2005. “I was very fortunate to get into the semiconductor industry in its infancy.” And it was an opportunity to grow from the time when we couldn’t make a single silicon transistor to the time when we put 1.7 billion of them on a single chip! It was apparent to ride.”
For years, Intel’s rivals such as Nvidia (NVDA) have argued that Moore’s Law no longer exists to slow improvements in chip manufacturing.
But despite manufacturing setbacks that have caused Intel to lose market share in recent years, current CEO Pat Gelsinger said he believes Moore’s Law still holds as the company invests billions of dollars in a turnaround effort.
Although he predicted the PC movement, Moore told Forbes magazine that he didn’t buy a home computer until the late 1980s.
A San Francisco native, Moore earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics in 1954 at the California Institute of Technology.
He attended Shockley’s semiconductor laboratory where he met future Intel cofounder Robert Noyce. Part of the “Traitorous Eight” left in 1957 to launch Fairchild Semiconductor. In 1968, Moore and Noyce Fairchild left to start a memory chip company soon named Intel, short for Integrated Electronics.
Moore and Noyce’s first hire was another Fairchild colleague, Andy Grove, who led Intel through much of its explosive growth in the 1980s and 1990s.
Moore describes himself in Fortune magazine as an “accidental entrepreneur” who had no desire to go global – but he, Noyce and Grove entered into a powerful 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, his efforts often paying off. Grove completed the group as Intel’s operations and management expert.
Moore’s remarkable talent also inspired other engineers working for him, and, under his leadership and Noyce’s, Intel invented the microprocessors that would pave the way for the personal computer revolution.
He was the executive chairman 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.
In 2023 Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $7.2 billion.
Moore has been a long-time game fisherman, has pursued his passion all over the world and in 2000 he and his wife Anne started a foundation known for its surrounding causes. The foundation, which has undertaken projects such as protecting the Amazon basin and salmon rivers in the US, Canada and Russia, was founded by Moore with a 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 the search for extraterrestrial intelligence that aided the SETI project.
Moore received the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in 2002. He and his wife had two children.