Noyce Google search doodle

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Google Doodle a fitting tribute to Robert Noyce

To start off the week, Google devoted its now famous doodle space to what would have been the 84th birthday of Robert Noyce, incorporating its logo into an image of a microchip.

I thought it was an interesting choice because, despite Noyce’s success in the computer and specifically the semi-conductor industry, he’s largely an unknown outside of industry circles.

I’m told that the late Steve Jobs was a big admirer of Noyce, and I can see why, because both men contributed a lot to the business side of computers.

Noyce founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957, and created a relaxed atmosphere for employees that was far from typical in those days. Then in 1968, he and Gordon Moore founded a little company called Intel. As CEO of Intel, he refused any real perks, so there were no company cars or jets, lavish offices and working retreats at sunny island paradises. Instead, he worked alongside the rest of the team. Can you imagine the fat-cat CEOs of today even considering giving up their executive washrooms and huge holiday bonuses?

Besides being a businessman, he was also a visionary and an inventor. He held several patents, including one for a type of integrated circuit that is the basis for a lot of electronic equipment today. And he was in charge at Intel when Ted Hoff invented the microprocessor, which made your reading this article on your screen, my writing it on my computer, and Google for that matter, all possible.

When he died in 1990, he was working at a nonprofit organization whose goal was to conduct basic semiconductor research for American corporations to try and level the playing field with Japan, which had surpassed the United States at the time. It doesn’t surprise me that he was working at a nonprofit when he died at age 62, even though he could have been the boss at almost any computer company.

But Noyce was always looking out for the man on the street, as it were. In the final interview he gave, he advocated more computer training, especially for the poor and downtrodden, if our country would hope to keep its edge. Specifically, he said we as a nation need to, “ ... make sure we are preparing our next generation to flourish in a high-tech age. And that means education of the lowest and the poorest, as well as at the graduate school level.”

Rest in peace, and happy birthday to the “mayor” of Silicon Valley.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

Reader Comments

Wed, Dec 14, 2011

Greyt write-up - Thanks! Bill B.

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 Steven Smith DC

I worked with Noyce back in the day. And everything said about him here was true. He was a hell of a good guy. You almost didn't think of him as the boss. Really great person.

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