Gordon Moore Reflects on Chips, Cubicles and Fishing

Gordon Moore speaks about the founding of Intel and his company's impact on the modern PC industry.

SAN FRANCISCO—There are few people in the IT industry that can bring an audience to its feet.

Gordon Moore is one of those few.

At the Intel Developer Forum here, Moore, one of the co-founders of Intel and the creator of the famous and groundbreaking Moores Law, received a standing ovation both at the beginning and end of his 45-minute discussion.

The forum, which was hosted by Moira Gunn of National Public Radios "Tech Nation," focused on Moores more than 40 years in the industry, his research that helped develop Moores Law and the founding of Intel in 1968.

Moore, who has a background in chemistry and physics, first published in 1965 the idea that would become Moores Law, which basically states that computer processing power will double every 18 months.


Click here to read about Intels efforts in 2005 to collect the original copies of the Moores Law papers.

Just a few years later, in 1968, Moore and Robert Noyce left the company they were working for and founded Intel, which became not only part of the foundation of the PC revolution that would come of age in Silicon Valley in the 1960s and 1970s, but also one of the worlds largest corporations.

When the two first started Intel, they worked on improving semiconductor memory and had tried to work on several different technologies before settling on silicon gate MOS (metal-oxide semiconductor). He would later call it the companys "Goldilocks" strategy since it was not as complicated as some other technologies to produce and at the same time, Intel found itself years ahead of what other companies semiconductor technology.


Click here to read about Intels product road map for the next three years.

As Intel grew from those first innovations, Moore became a leading figure in the industry. About a decade after he wrote his famous paper, some of his close associates began applying his name to the law, which sometimes proved uncomfortable for its namesake.

"For a decade, I couldnt even say the words," Moore told the audience.

One of the innovations that Intel is also known for, outside of its processor technology, is the companys use of cubicles to divide up office space. When Intel moved to a new building in Santa Clara, Calif., Moore suggested using cubicles for everyone.

"The alternative was leaving the space a lot more open, so we went ahead and used the cubicles that were available at the time," Moore recalled. "So then we found that we had some guys in cubicles and some other people in offices, so then we turned around and put everyone in cubicles. To this day, I still have the largest cubicle at Intel."

On a more serious note, Moore did say that at some point, perhaps within 10 to 15 years, his law would reach its natural conclusion. He said it was "amazing" how many innovations have been developed based on his ideas.

"There is an end" to Moores Law, Moore said. "Any physical quantity that is growing exponentially is going to come to some kind of end … There are some fundamental limits. I have been amazed how people have been able to push the technology."


Click here to read more about Moores Law.

Moore also told the audience that computing has changed the world so much that not only has it changed the industry itself, but also other sciences that now closely interact with PCs. He cited biology and the life sciences as one area that has changed since the modern PC moved into the laboratory. If he could do his career over again, Moore said, he might have studied biology.

Moore was also asked if he had a revelation about Moores law during one his well-known fishing trips. While he said he had no specific memory of working on his theory during a trip, he noted that the time away from the office rejuvenated his thinking and outlook on various technical problems.

"I think its a valuable thing to do," Moore said. "I can go away for two weeks and not think about anything expect how to outsmart the darn fish. I didnt have a BlackBerry. I went to places where there were no phones and completely lost contact. I found it very refreshing."

For now, most of Moores energies are focused on his foundation, which works on conservation issues and expanding the sciences in high education. As for the future of computing, Moore said he sees a time when computers can recognize voice commands, which will eventually lead to users interacting with PCs in the same way people interact with one another.

As for future accomplishments, Moore said he still has plenty to do.

"First, Id like to clear all the paperwork out of my office," Moore said as the audience laughed. "The foundation right for now takes a lot of energy. Id like to be around to see what is being developed now come to fruition. Its an exciting time and things are changing so fast. Id like to come back a hundred years from now and see what has happened."


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