Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel and a titan of the semiconductor industry whose “Moore’s Law” literally served as the measuring stick for the entire chip business, died Friday at his home in Hawaii. He was 94.
Intel confirmed the news Friday afternoon, along with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which Moore and his wife founded in 2000. In 2017, The Chronicle of Philanthropy marked the two as California’s most generous donors, giving a total of $6.3 billion to “create positive outcomes for future generations.”
Moore co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957, then left to co-found Intel with Robert Noyce. (Andy Grove is largely credited as being the third of the trio that were responsible for Intel’s success, but he joined on the day Intel was first incorporated.) Moore served as executive vice president until 1975, then became president and later chief executive in 1979. He gave up the chief executive position in 1987 to Grove, though remained chairman through 1997.
It was Moore’s Law, though, that survived Moore’s entire tenure. Not a law but an axiom, Moore originally postulated the transistor density would double every year, a “law” that varied between 12 to 18 months or so for the remainder of his life. The regularity of such advancements was so fixed that Intel itself began measuring its own processor advancements on a “tick-tock” model: shrinking the chip one year, and redesigning it the next. Corollaries to Moore’s Law also governed the number of transistors found on a chip, and suggested that a chipmaker moving to a new generation could reduce the power of the chip while keeping the speed the same, or use a similar amount of power but increase its speed.
Moore only came up with the concept when asked by Electronics Magazine to essentially predict the future.
Moore, a modest man, wasn’t fond of the term, either. “For the first twenty years I couldn’t utter the term ‘Moore’s Law’,” Moore said in 2015. “It was embarrassing. I finally got accustomed to it enough that I can say it with a straight face.”
The end of Moore’s Law has been bandied about for years, and hasn’t quite happened, though some would say that it has continued to slow. Current chief executive Pat Gelsinger has reiterated that Moore’s Law is not dead, a claim Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang made to PCWorld’s Gordon Mah Ung in 2022.
Moore was known as much for his philanthropy as much as contributions to science, and the Gordon and Bettey Moore Foundation continues to work on initiatives to fund science, environmental conservation, patient care, and Bay Area science museums. Moore received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in 2002.
Moore is survived by his wife, Betty, two sons, and four grandchildren.