April 7, 2005 4:00 AM PDT
Newsmaker: Gordon Moore on 40 years of his processor lawSee all Newsmakers
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FAQ: Forty years of Moore's LawApril 1, 2005
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don't think the route we're pursuing now is going to get to something that looks like human intelligence.
I do think, though, that eventually we will change our approach and do things much closer to the way they're done biologically and have a very big chance to get into something that looks for all intents and purposes like human intelligence. But I really don't think it's a simple approach. The amount of power that we would need to do everything the human brain does is probably more than we generate on Earth by our current approach.
Although chips are getting cheaper, chip-fabrication facilities are getting more expensive. How big of a problem will that be for the industry?
Moore: In the '60s, fabs were relatively cheap, so that wasn't much of a problem. Cost really became significant in the '80s--before that the labor and the engineering were the dominant factors. With fabs, now you look at two-and-a-half to 3 billion dollars. But the converse is you get so much more product out. When Intel started in 1968, we took a big lead to 2-inch wafers. Now we have, what, 12-inch wafers basically, six times the diameter, 36 times the area--so on one wafer you get a heck of a lot more stuff, and you get a much higher yield, too.
Besides coining Moore's Law, you're also sort of one of the founders of job hopping, going from Shockley to Fairchild to Intel. That must have been novel at the time.
Moore: Well, Shockley was the unique experience. He was a brilliant physicist, but he had very peculiar ideas of how people work, and he had some destructive practices. I had a reasonably good relationship with Shockley because I was a chemist, and he didn't think he had to know everything I do.
We got so disturbed that we went around Shockley to Arnold Beckman, which was the financial support, and asked him if we could somehow or other have Shockley removed from the management chain. We'd love to have him as a consultant or something, but bring somebody else in to manage the company.
We thought, we're making progress, but finally somebody got to Beckman and said that could ruin Shockley's career, so he changed his mind.
We felt we'd burnt our fingers so badly then we had to go look for further jobs. By accident, one of the group, Eugene Kleiner, wrote to a friend of his father's in the investment banking business, and they sent out a couple of partners. Well, one partner was a young Harvard MBA with the name of Arthur Rock. (Rock would later fund Intel and Apple Computer, among other companies.)
We talked to Rock and he said, "Well, you know what? We found a company for you (all) to work for." So we got this opportunity to set up a new company (Fairchild Semiconductor, within the larger Fairchild Corp.), and that was the formation of Fairchild. It was a group of eight of us.
But we learned that plenty of young kids will have a tough time pushing inside a big company. Fairchild went through two chief executives within a six-month period. Bob Noyce was the logical internal candidate, and he was being passed over, so he got kind of ticked off about that and decided he wanted to leave. I saw that my job would probably change significantly, so I said, "OK, I'll leave to set up Intel."
Fairchild had a lot of spinouts. Fairchild developed technology faster than it could exploit it. That started what I call the Silicon Valley effect, where any engineer with a new idea would obviously try to form a new company.
Paul Otellini is the incoming CEO, but Andy Grove still casts a huge shadow. Could you assess his career?
Moore: Andy says I am the only boss he ever had. If that's the case, I don't think he ever really had a boss (laughs). I hired him out of graduate school at Fairchild, and he rapidly worked his way up there and became assistant director of the laboratory. When I told him I was leaving Fairchild, he said, "I'm coming too."
Andy is a unique individual. He has changed careers several times along the way. When he came to Intel, we thought his role would probably be something like director of research. Then he got very interested in how organizations work, got over his Ph.D. and even wrote books on management from a technical point of view. When I stepped aside as CEO, he took over the job and he evolved to the role of industry spokesman. When he got over being CEO and became chairman, he started working with governments and had to just abandon what he was doing previously, and has done an excellent job.
of Moore's Law
Gordon Moore's famous
law has been around
for four decades. Here
are the key points
to know about it.
Do you personally use computers?
Moore: It seems like I still spend about half my time in front of one. E-mail is an important part of my life. I live half the year in Hawaii these days. If it wasn't for e-mail, I don't know how I would stay connected. There are spreadsheets; there's word processing work--those are the functions I probably use the most. I play simple games; I handle photographs.
I get very frustrated with the software sometimes. I hate how long it takes my computer to reboot when I have to shut it down for any reason.How optimistic are you about the future of the U.S. technology industry?
Moore: Silicon Valley is still a great place to start a company in any of the information technology, biotechnology areas. Everybody is available locally. In Silicon Valley the biggest disadvantage is that it's expensive, especially the houses. It's hard to move young people in. Even with the recessions we've had, the price of housing has continued to increase. I don't understand how it can continue to go up.
The area's uniqueness is not as great as it was in the beginning. Now there's a lot of other places competing technologically. As far as my view of U.S. competitiveness, I think it's a real challenge. Our educational system is not what it ought to be, particularly when you are talking about K through 12. The universities are still great.
We (face) very formidable competition in the world--I think the impact of China in particular is just beginning to be felt; 1.1 or 1.2 billion people are going to have a dramatic impact. In the next 20 years, we're going to see how that plays out, I'm expecting the U.S. will still be a successful player, but I don't think it'll enjoy the position it had in, say, the past 20 years. We'll have to work hard at it. China is training 10 times as many engineers. Increasingly, they are a big consumer of the world's resources. Their technology is catching up very rapidly. It's a very entrepreneurial society.
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