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Gordon Moore looks back, and forward, 40 years

Intel's co-founder offers advice to the industry

By James Niccolai
April 13, 2005 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Forty years after he coined the most famous law in computing, Gordon Moore still has a few words of advice for the industry.
For software developers: Simplify! Your interfaces are getting worse. Nanotechnology? Don't believe the hype; silicon chips are here to stay. Artificial intelligence? Try again, folks! You're barking up the wrong tree.
Speaking by telephone from Hawaii, where he now lives, Moore fielded an hour of questions from reporters yesterday to mark the approaching 40th anniversary of his celebrated prediction -- that the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double roughly every two years.
Christened later as Moore's Law, his observation became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy for the industry, he said, driving computer makers to keep pace with the expected rate of advancement. But he was too humble to claim credit for a phenomenon that effectively made possible the rapid evolution of modern electronics.
"If I hadn't published this paper in '65, the trends would have been obvious a decade later anyway. I don't think a particular paper made a difference. I was just in a position where I could see the trend," he said.
Moore, now 76, was director of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductor when his paper was published in Electronics Magazine on April 19, 1965. Three years later he founded Intel Corp. with Robert Noyce, becoming its CEO in 1975 and its chairman four years after that.
His law had little effect at first, he said. The first big impact he recalls occurred when Japanese manufacturers entered the memory chip business in the 1970s. For a while, the Japanese struggled to find their step in a business where the technology seemed to advance in an unpredictable fashion.

Gordon Moore
Gordon Moore
"Once they saw the memory series developing -- from 1K to 4K to 16K -- they had a method by which to plan where the industry would end up, and they were very successful at intersecting the trajectory and taking a leading position," he said.
Moore said he reread his paper about a year ago and was pleasantly surprised to find that it also foresaw the use of computers at home, although he had forgotten that he had made that prediction by the time the first home computer appeared. In fact, as CEO of Intel years later, he would dismiss home computing altogether.
"An engineer came to me with an idea about a home computer," he recalled. "I said, 'Gee, that's fine but what would you use it for?' He could only think of a housewife using it to keep recipes on. I
Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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