In Memoriam: Gordon Moore

Photo of Gordon Moore in the 1970sToday Gordon Moore, a figurehead in the semiconductor industry, passed away at 94 years of age.  He will be sorely missed by the semiconductor industry.

Moore, the namesake of Moore’s Law, cofounded both Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel Corporation.  He was an unassuming genius and visionary who, as a part of Intel’s leadership triumvirate in the company’s main growth phase, provided insight both to the management of the company and to the science behind the leading issues confronting the industry.

I was fortunate enough to have met him twice, once in 1995, when Intel was introducing its MLC NOR flash, and again at the IEEE’s 2003 ISSCC (International Solid State Circuits Conference), when he gave a retrospective of Moore’s Law called “No Exponential Can Last Forever, But Forever Can Be Delayed.”

I have been told of the death of Moore’s Law since 1981, but 42 years have passed since then, and the transistor count on chips continues to grow.

Image of the cover of Electronics Magazine, September 1970, showing a photo of the 256-bit phase-change memory (PCM or PRAM) developed by Gordon Moore and Ron Neale.Moore was the co-author of a 1970 article on phase-change memory (PCM) whose lead writer was Ron Neale, a frequent contributor to the Memory Guy blog.  Little did either of them know that Intel would use its PCM understanding, honed over the next 45 years, to create 3D XPoint or Optane.  This technology holds promise that may not be fully realized in the world of computing for a number of years.

I have heard many stories of Dr. Moore, all of them complementary.  He seems to have been a person who would join a subordinate who was baffled by some aspect of physics, and work side-by-side with them to find a solution.  My friend Joel Karp, the designer of Intel’s first DRAM, told me of the case where Moore and Joel’s office-mate Dov Frohman, the designer of Intel’s first EPROM, debated over the mechanisms that made a floating gate work the way that it does.  At the time they were unaware of Simon Sze and Dawon Khang’s invention of the floating gate at Bell Laboratories.

Gordon Moore, unassuming genius, leader of an industry, giant.  The world will miss you!