Birth of Intel and First Robot-Related Death


Intel co-founders Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce in 1970.

July 18, 1968

Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore found microprocessor manufacturer NM Electronics in Santa Clara, California. In deciding on a name, Moore and Noyce quickly rejected “Moore Noyce,” homophone for “more noise” – an ill-suited name for an electronics company. Instead they used the name NM (Noyce and Moore) Electronics before renaming their company Integrated Electronics or “Intel” for short.

From an interview of Gordon Moore and Arthur Rock, the venture capitalist who was the first to invest in Intel, by John C. Hollar and Douglas Fairbairn, published in a special issue of Core, the Computer History Museum’s publication:

Hollar: Was it an intimidating idea to think that the two of you would leave Fairchild?

Moore: Not especially. We belonged to the culture of the Valley that failure is something that, if it happens to occur, you can start all over again. There’s no stigma attached to being a failure. And we had had enough success at Fairchild. We were reasonably confident we knew what we were doing.

Hollar: There was a famous one page proposal, wasn’t there?—that was drafted to explain what the nature—

Rock: It was three pages, doublespaced. Some of the investors wanted to have something in their files. So I wrote this three-page double-spaced memo. It didn’t say anything.

Moore: I didn’t realize you had written it. I thought Bob [Noyce, Intel’s co-founder] did.

Rock: No, I did. I think Bob would have been more specific.

Moore: Probably. It was rather nebulous what we were gonna do.

Fairbairn: Did you have a specific product in mind?

Moore: Well, semiconductor memory. And we went after that with three different technological approaches. I refer to it now as our “Goldilocks Strategy.” But one of them, by fortune and accident, was just difficult enough. When we were focusing on it, we could get by the two or three rather serious problems that had to be solved. But we ended up, then, with a monopoly of about seven years before anybody else got over on the silicon gate mos [metal oxide semiconductor] transistor structure that we were using. So it really worked out beautifully. Luck plays a significant role in these things. It was just a very lucky choice.

Everything we associate with today’s Silicon Valley was already there: No stigma attached to failure, audacious risk taking, willing investors, creating (temporary) monopolies, and lots of luck. Arthur Rock was a personal friend (another attribute of today’s Silicon Valley) but he also convinced others, with his 3-page memo (or 3 paragraphs?) and his own $10,000, to invest an additional $2.5 million in the “nebulous” idea of the two entrepreneurs. Moore’s 1965 prediction (which became known later as “Moore’s Law”), probably also helped convince the other investors that they are betting their money on a technology with a guaranteed exponential future.

Intel went public in 1971, raising $6.8 million.


Tin Robot, 1984

July 21, 1984

A factory robot in Michigan crushes a 34 year-old worker in the first ever robot-related death in the United States.  The robot thus violated Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics, “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm,” first articulated in 1942.

Rodney Books, founder of Rethink Robotics, developer of a new type of industrial robots that don’t crush humans, predicted in 2008: “[In the 1950s, when I was born] there were very few computers in the world, and today there are more microprocessors than there are people. Now, it almost seems plausible that in my lifetime, the number of robots could also exceed the number of people.”

The worldwide stock of operational industrial robots was about 1,480,800 units at the end of 2014.


Typographer (Source: Wikipedia)

July 23, 1829

William Austin Burt, a surveyor from Mount Vernon, Michigan, receives a patent for the typographer, the earliest forerunner of the typewriter. In 2006, a Boston Globe article described the fate of typewriters today:

When Richard Polt, a professor of philosophy at Xavier University, brings his portable Remington #7 to his local coffee shop to mark papers, he inevitably draws a crowd. “It’s a real novelty,” Polt said. “Some of them have never seen a typewriter before … they ask me where the screen is or the mouse or the delete key.”


Jack Kilby and his notebook

July 24, 1958

Jack Kilby sketches a rough design of the first integrated circuit in his notebook. By the early 1960s, some computers had more than 200,000 individual electronic components–transistors, diodes, resistors, and capacitors–and connecting all of the components was becoming increasingly difficult. From Texas Instruments’ website:

Engineers worldwide hunted for a solution. TI mounted large-scale research efforts and recruited engineers from coast to coast, including Jack Kilby in 1958. At the time, TI was exploring a design called the “micromodule,” in which all the parts of a circuit were equal in size and shape. Kilby was skeptical, largely because it didn’t solve the basic problem: the number of transistor components.

While his colleagues enjoyed a two-week summer hiatus, Kilby, a new TI employee without any accrued vacation time, worked alone on an alternative in his TI lab.

TI had already spent millions developing machinery and techniques for working with silicon, so Kilby sought a way to fabricate all of the circuit’s components, including capacitors and resistors, with a monolithic block of the same material. He sketched a rough design of the first integrated circuit in his notebook on July 24, 1958.

Two months passed before Kilby’s managers, preoccupied with pursuing the “micromodule” concept, gathered in Kilby’s office for the first successful demonstration of the integrated circuit.

Kilby’s invention made obsolete the hand-soldering of thousands of components, while allowing for Henry Ford-style mass production.

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