Gordon E. Moore, an Intel Corp. co-founder whose vision helped lead to the rise of Silicon Valley and put laptop computers and microprocessors everywhere, died Friday. He was 94. Moore called himself an "accidental entrepreneur" who became a billionaire and philanthropist after—having failed to be hired as a teacher—investing $500 in the microchip business, the New York Times reports. He and Robert Noyce started Intel in 1968, putting together a group of creative technicians. It was Moore who brought the vision, beginning with what became known as Moore's Law. "It is impossible to imagine the world we live in today, with computing so essential to our lives, without the contributions of Gordon Moore," Intel Chairman Frank Yeary said, per the AP.
Moore's Law was posited before Intel was launched. Using graph paper, Moore plotted how computers' data-processing power would rise exponentially, because the number of transistors that could be placed on a silicon chip would double at regular intervals. The rule was later expanded to apply to other electronic devices, including hard drives and computer monitors: About every 18 months, a new generation of devices would make the last wave obsolete. It became a standard for the tech industry. Moore later added that improved technology would make computers more more expensive to build, though the volume of sales would ensure buyers would pay less.
The theory was included in an article he wrote for Electronics magazine in 1963 headlined, "Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits." It didn't receive much attention at first, said David Brock, who wrote a biography of Moore. "Then people saw the phenomenon happen. Silicon microchips got more complex, and their cost went down," he said. Carver Mead, a computer scientist who gave Moore's Law its name in the 1970s, said: "It's the human spirit. It's what made Silicon Valley," Moore also pioneered the Silicon Valley culture, when he, Noyce, and six other engineers quit Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, unhappy with management, and started a competitor.
Moore, who had a doctorate in chemistry, was chief executive of Intel from 1975 to 1987, then chairman for another decade. Forbes estimated his net worth at $7 billion in 2014. With his wife, he launched the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2000. It's donated more than $5 billion so far, largely to causes concerning environmental conservation, science, patient care, and projects in the San Francisco Bay area. Even as Moore's Law held, its author knew that, like each wave of digital devices, it had an end date, per the Times. "It can't continue forever," Moore told Techworld magazine in 2005. "The nature of exponentials is that you push them out and eventually disaster happens." (Read more obituary stories.)