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Moore musings: The man behind the law speaks

Posted: 21 Sep 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Gordon Moore? history IC? integrated circuits?

On the day (Sept. 19) billed by Intel Corp. as the 50th anniversary of the IC, the company's founder and chairman emeritus, Gordon Moore, took to the stage at the Intel Developer Forum and reflected on everything from cubicles to ecology. The following are excerpts from his conversation with Moira Gunn, moderator of National Public Radio's TechNation program.

On being hired by transistor co-inventor William Shockley: "In those days they thought they might need a chemist, and I was lucky enough to be one of the first people he called. We didn't have email then, but we did have phonesthe kind you stick your finger in."

On the first ICs: "There were a lot of questions about the integrated circuit in the early days because sometimes the yields were as low as 20 percent. People thought they wouldn't be reliable because there was no way to go in and measure the parameters of the individual transistors and resistors."

On the company's name: "We went through a lot of names. Bob Noyce's daughter wanted to call it Moore Noyce Electronics. At first we called it MN Electronics. We wound up buying the name Intel from a motel company in the Midwest."

On Intel co-founder Robert Noyce's ideas on pricing: "One of Noyce's big breakthroughs was an idea that you could price an IC for less than the sum of the individual transistors. We thought we could make it up in volume. Interestingly, we eventually did because we got to the point where we hit a curve in the cost."

On cubicles: "I still have the largest cubicle at Intel. That's because at the time I had this big round table that wouldn't fit into the standard cubicle, so I kept that table."

On the limits of Moore's Law: "One time Stephen Hawking came through here and someone asked him about the fundamental limits of microelectronics. He typed out his answer saying the two fundamental limits are the speed of light and the atomic nature of atoms. We made quite an advance recently using hafnium as an insulator. We were getting down to structures just five molecules thick, and you can't get much finer than that. I think we have another decade, maybe a decade and a half until we hit some fundamental limit."

On starting over: "If I was starting school today I'd probably look into biology. The interface between biology and computers is a very constructive area."

On the cost of transistors: "Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of AT&T, once estimated transistors would someday cost as little as 68 cents. I think the reality is today they cost on the order of 10 pico bucks."

On wafer sizes: "I once extrapolated that wafers would be 57inches in diameter by the year 2000. I overshot to make a point, but I never really thought we would see 12-inch wafers."

On his foundation's work in ecology: "We used to like to go deep water fishing, and the best fishing was in very remote places. Sometimes we would return to these places in a few years and find high rise buildings and golf courses. I think we may be the last generation to see any really wild places left on the Earth."

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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