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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Moore’s Law @ 50: Will it never end?

April 22nd, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena

If there’s something missing in your personal or professional knowledge of Moore’s Law, you should have spent 5 hours at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View on April 17, 2015, although even then you might not have learned anything new. For people in technology, seriously, what more is there to know?

The ‘law’, penned by Gordon Moore and published in an Electronics article on April 19, 1965, was based on his many years’ experience in the nascent-to-ferocious semiconductor industry, and has since been interpreted, re-interpreted, mis-interpreted, and zealously lionized – both the law and the man – over the last 50 years. Which brings us back to April 17th and the 3-part program at the CHM.

First, an on-stage interview of David Brock and Arnold Thackray [respectively, Senior Researcher and Chancellor of the Chemical Heritage Foundation], the co-authors of Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary.

Brock and Thackray, who spent a decade writing the book, were ably interviewed for 90 minutes by CHM CEO John Hollar.

The second session on April 15th was free lunch for the 400+ people in attendance, topped off by a 20-minute biopic showcasing the Miracle of Moore.

Following that, the afternoon closed with an on-stage discussion between David Brock and two celebrated technologists, Mohr Davidow Ventures’ William Davidow and Cal Tech’s Emeritus Carver Mead.

All of these things – the authors panel, the lunch/movie, and the vintage technologists panel – were not just captivating, but happily also offered opportunities to absorb new factoids for those of us who have not read the book cover-to-cover [see bulleted list below].

If you, however, have already read the book, or better yet helped to write the book of the history of the semiconductor industry, you can stop here.

Interesting factoids …

* Gordon Moore and his wife Betty are Bay Area locals. He grew up in Pescadero and was the first in his family to go to college. She was born into a family of means and grew up in Oakland.

* Moore attended San Jose State before transferring to Cal.

* While in grad school at Cal Tech, Gordon Moore TA’d for the legendary Linus Pauling of two-time Nobel Prize winning fame.

* After Dr. and Mrs. Moore went East to pursue professional opportunities, they were lured back to what-would-become Silicon Valley by William Shockley of one-time Nobel Prize winning fame.

* Gordon Moore was the foremost chemist of his generation, and it was upon that skill set that he built his fame – and the fundamentals of scalable semiconductor manufacturing – at Shockley, Fairchild, and Intel.

* Moore spearheaded the move to provide profit-sharing incentives for employees of Fairchild, something that engendered tremendous loyalty and even more industrious innovations on the part of everyone in the company.

* Moore’s Intel success was so complete, at one point he was the second-wealthiest man in California.

* Per a post-retirement interview in Forbes, Moore considers himself the longest-serving and most successful CEO in the history of Intel.

* There are only two foundations in the United States today with endowments in excess of a billion dollars still lead by their private benefactors: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.

* By way of lengthy conversations with Gordon Moore in the early 1960’s regarding tunneling issues and scaling below 10 angstroms, Carver Mead actually prompted Moore’s Law.

* However, Gordon Moore actually invented Silicon Valley, not Hewlett and Packard. Otherwise, it would have been called Terman Valley.

* Moore’s personal disposition – steady nerves, calm analytical temperament, willingness to hold back to let others shine – and deep technical knowledge were the recipe for his stupendous success as a leader, technologist, team player, and overall great human being.

* Nonetheless,  as a child Gordon Moore was obsessed with the chemistry of explosives.

* If you google Moore’s Law and Murphy’s Law, hits for the former versus hits for the latter are running 2-to-1.

Addendum factoids …

* The original building where Shockley Transistor Company was headquartered in Mountain View was just pulled down this month. History does not matter to Silicon Valley, the CHM not withstanding.

* More transistors have been fabricated on earth than there are grains of sand in the oceans or [visible] stars in the sky.


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