The Man behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley

The Man behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley

The Man behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley

The Man behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley

Synopsis

Hailed as the Thomas EdisonandHenry Ford of Silicon Valley, Robert Noyce was a brilliant inventor, a leading entrepreneur, and a daring risk taker who piloted his own jets and skied mountains accessible only by helicopter. Now, inThe Man Behind the Microchip, Leslie Berlin captures not only this colorful individual but also the vibrant interplay of technology, business, money, politics, and culture that defines Silicon Valley.

Here is the life of a giant of the high-tech industry, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel who co-invented the integrated circuit, the electronic heart of every modern computer, automobile, cellular telephone, advanced weapon, and video game. With access to never-before-seen documents, Berlin paints a fascinating portrait of Noyce: he was an ambitious and intensely competitive multimillionaire who exuded a "just folks" sort of charm, a Midwestern preacher's son who rejected organized religion but would counsel his employees to "go off and do something wonderful," a man who never looked back and sometimes paid a price for it. In addition, this vivid narrative sheds light on Noyce's friends and associates, including some of the best-known managers, venture capitalists, and creative minds in Silicon Valley. Berlin draws upon interviews with dozens of key players in modern American business--including Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Gordon Moore, and Warren Buffett; their recollections of Noyce give readers a privileged, first-hand look inside the dynamic world of high-tech entrepreneurship.

A modern American success story,The Man Behind the Microchipilluminates the triumphs and setbacks of one of the most important inventors and entrepreneurs of our time.

Excerpt

Bob Noyce took me under his wing,” Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs explains. “I was young, in my twenties. He was in his early fifties. He tried to give me the lay of the land, give me a perspective that I could only partially understand.” Jobs continues, “You can’t really understand what is going on now unless you understand what came before.”

Before Intel and Google, before Microsoft and dot-coms and Apple and Cisco and Sun and Pixar and stock-option millionaires and startup widows and billionaire venture capitalists, there was a group of eight young men—six of them with PhDs, none of them over 32—who disliked their boss and decided to start their own transistor company. It was 1957. Leading the group of eight was an Iowa-born physicist named Robert Noyce, a minister’s son and former champion diver, with a doctorate from MIT and a mind so quick (and a way with the ladies so effortless) that his graduateschool friends called him “Rapid Robert.” Over the next decade, Noyce managed the company, called Fairchild Semiconductor, by teaching himself business skills as he went along. By 1967, Fairchild had 11,000 employees and $12 million in profits.

Before the Internet and the World Wide Web and cell phones and personal digital assistants and laptop computers and desktop computers and pocket calculators and digital watches and pacemakers and ATMs and cruise control and digital cameras and motion detectors and video games— before all these, and the electronic heart of all these, is a tiny device called an integrated circuit. The inventor of the first practical integrated circuit, in 1959, was Robert Noyce. It was one of 17 patents awarded to him.

In 1968, Noyce and his Fairchild co-founder Gordon Moore launched their own new venture, a tiny memory company they called Intel. Noyce’s leadership of Intel—six years as president, five as board chair, and nine as a director—helped create a company that was roughly twice as profitable as its competitors and that today stands as the largest producer of semiconductor chips in the world.

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