Moore’s Law | Arnold Thackray

Summary of: Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary
By: Arnold Thackray


Embark on a fascinating journey into the life of Gordon Moore, the man behind the revolutionary Moore’s Law, in ‘Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary’ by Arnold Thackray. This book summary takes you through Moore’s early life as a passionate chemist and his consequential contribution in the development of transistors and microchips. Witness the extraordinary accomplishments of Moore and his partners that shaped the future of computing, and learn how this technology became the core innovation in modern electronics. Delve into a world of prediction and innovation that has propelled Moore’s unyielding drive to excel in his field.

Gordon Moore: The Man Behind Moore’s Law

Discover the life and passions of Gordon Moore, the man who shaped the future of technology with his famous law.

Gordon Moore’s incredible intelligence and analytical mind led him to his lifelong vocation in science. At the age of 11, his experimentation with explosives marked the beginning of his love for chemistry, which would eventually shape his contributions to the tech industry. He was far ahead of his peers in high school, taking advanced chemistry lessons, and making a name for himself with his ideas.

But chemistry wasn’t the only explosive thing in his life; he met Betty Irene Whitaker, a journalism major and outgoing personality, who became his wife. Her vivaciousness and his quiet confidence made for an intriguing pair.

Moore went on to shape the future of technology with his famous Moore’s Law, which predicted the exponential growth of computational power. This visionary idea became the bedrock of technological innovation and shaped the course of human progress. Discover the man behind the law and the passions that fueled his brilliance.

Gordon Moore: The Influences Behind His Seminal Work

Gordon Moore’s journey to discovering Moore’s Law started with his enrollment at Berkeley University, which was becoming a hub of academic science in the 1940s due to the booming economy in California. He was influenced by his professors, particularly George Jura, who taught him the significance of original research and introduced him to glassblowing. Moore’s seminary work was known for its studiousness, and his reputation soon helped him gain acceptance to the prestigious California Institute of Technology (Caltech). At Caltech, Moore furthered his studies in chemistry while his relationship with Betty Whitaker blossomed – and led to marriage.

Gordon Moore’s Journey to the Semiconductor Industry

Gordon Moore’s background in experimental chemistry and explosives research led him to become a significant figure in the semiconductor industry.

When Gordon Moore began his studies at Caltech, he was surrounded by a booming technological era. He excelled in experimental chemistry under Professor Richard McLean Badger, focusing on nitrogen compounds which were being used in the Korean War. After completing his Ph.D., Moore was unable to find a professorship that met his high demands, but Badger suggested he look into the industry instead. Moore eventually landed a position at the Applied Physics Laboratory, which was funded by the Navy at John Hopkins University. Despite having to relocate, Moore felt excited about the new opportunity and was eager to experiment independently.

Moore’s experiences in chemistry and explosives research proved to be valuable in his new position. Over time, Moore became a significant figure in the semiconductor industry, co-founding companies such as Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor. His contributions to the industry ultimately led to the formulation of “Moore’s Law,” which predicts that the number of transistors on a microchip will double every two years, revolutionizing the technology industry. Gordon Moore’s journey highlights the importance of following one’s interests and being open to new opportunities.

The Transistor Revolution

In 1947, Bell Labs invented the transistor, a solid material device that could switch signals and amplify signals, making vacuum tubes obsolete and revolutionizing technology. By 1955, the transistor radio became ubiquitous, and over half a million transistors were being produced every month in the US. William Shockley, one of the inventors of the transistor, needed a skilled chemist for his California laboratory and recruited Moore in 1955. However, despite Moore’s confidence, the team struggled to create a transistor that used silicon as a semiconductor, leading to tension. Despite this, the invention of the transistor had already changed the world and would pave the way for countless new technologies.

Moore and the Traitorous Eight

The story of how Robert Moore and his team, known as the “traitorous eight,” left their jobs at Shockley Semiconductor and founded Fairchild Semiconductor. They became the first to develop a fast-switching silicon transistor, which was in high demand for its use in the B-70 Valkyrie bomber.

Robert Moore and his team, known as the “traitorous eight,” left their jobs at Shockley Semiconductor after struggling to make a breakthrough and feeling dissatisfied. They founded their own company, Fairchild Semiconductor and secured an investment from IBM’s major shareholder, Sherman Fairchild. This new company was born during the same week that Sputnik, the world’s first satellite was launched.

Moore saw the potential for their fast-switching silicon transistor to be in even greater demand after the launch of Sputnik. At the time, Texas Instruments had offered a small batch of silicon transistors, but they were not efficient in terms of switching speed. IBM later secured a contract for the B-70 Valkyrie bomber armed with thermonuclear weapons and capable of supersonic speed. The engineers of B-70 needed fast-switching silicon transistors and they heard of a small start-up in California producing it.

Moore made sure his team came first by focusing intently on producing the fast-switching silicon transistor. They succeeded a year after founding the company and called the transistor the ZN696. In a striking move, Gordon, one of Moore’s team members, went to the grocery store to buy the nicest container he could find – a Brillo box! This was to send the transistors to IBM.

Moore and the traitorous eight made a daring move in founding Fairchild Semiconductor and became the first to develop a fast-switching silicon transistor. They did so during a time when other companies such as Texas Instruments and Bell Labs were also researching the technology. The successful creation of the transistor propelled the group and the company to new heights.

Moore’s Law

In the late 1950s, the idea of integrating multiple components onto a single chip seemed impractical due to the high cost of technology. However, Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation, realized the potential of integrated circuits and founded Micrologic, a division of Fairchild. Microchips produced by Micrologic were later selected by NASA for the Apollo program, thanks to their smaller size and higher complexity. Then in 1965, Noyce published an article predicting that the number of transistors on a microchip would double every year while manufacturing costs would halve each year. This prediction became known as Moore’s Law and proved to be accurate. By 1975, there were 65,000 transistors on a single microchip, an exponential growth that led to an increase in computational power. Moore’s Law continues to be an essential concept in the technology industry, and it still holds true to this day.

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