# Oral-History:Gordon Earl Moore

In the interview, Gordon Earl Moore explains his involvement with the integrated circuit conception at Fairchild. His recollections include who conceptualized and invented the IC and how Fairchild was able to proceed with the ideas of its members. Moore talks of setbacks and troubles which he and his colleagues encountered in the processes of the IC development. In addition, he explains how the IC invention was accomplished in the United States, while it failed to be materialized in England and other European countries. In the interview, he also provides lessons for students of technological innovation. The interview concludes with Moore's explanation on the ways in which Fairchild, though a small company, could reap such a success.

GORDON EARL MOORE: An Interview Conducted by Michael Wolff, IEEE History Center, 4 March 1976

Interview #457 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Gordon E. Moore, an oral history conducted in 1976 by Michael Wolff, IEEE History Center, Piscataway, NJ, USA.

## Interview

INTERVIEW: Gordon Earl Moore

INTERVIEWER: Michael Wolff

DATE: 4 March 1976

PLACE: [location not given]

### Conception of the IC at Fairchild 1959 Meeting

Wolff:

I think 1959 was roughly the conception of the integrated circuit (IC) – at least at Fairchild. How do you recall it?

Moore:

At that time I was head of engineering and Bob (Robert N.) Noyce was director of R&D. We were essentially working in parallel positions. As I recall it, is the original description of the Texas Instruments (TI) part got published in one of the trade journals describing a component that had both the transistors and the resistors in it that did a function with some kind of an oscillator I think. We had different technology developed at Fairchild. Bob assembled a meeting at which I was not present to explore the question, "Given our technology and the idea of putting the several components together, what could we do?" During that meeting he came up with what proved to be two key ideas. One was the idea of using junction isolation to separate the components. He subsequently lost that to Kurt Lehovec in a patent interference. The idea of using an adherent metal film over the silicon oxide was something we had in our planar devices. My view of it is that Jack [St. Clair] Kilby originally had the idea of making an integrated structure, but Fairchild had the technology that made that kind of thing practical. Bob Noyce was the one that came up with the ways of applying the Fairchild technology to achieve the integrated structure.

Wolff:

Do remember just when that meeting occurred?

Moore:

It was probably in early '59.

Wolff:

Do you remember it as being triggered by Kilby's publication?

Moore:

Not necessarily. I think one of these references either from the Air Force people or from Kilby just mentioned that there was such a concept around.

Wolff:

Do you remember who else attended the meeting?

Moore:

I believe it included Jay Last, Jean Hoerni, and possibly Sheldon Roberts. I'm not sure.

Wolff:

Was [Lippincott] Ralls there?

Moore:

I don't know. He may have been. Ralls was our outside patent attorney.

### Geoffrey Dummer’s Early Proposals

Wolff:

That's very interesting. Were the people at Fairchild familiar with the ideas of Geoffrey Dummer in England?

Moore:

I was not at that time. I talked with Dummer subsequently.

Wolff:

Did you know that he had proposed such a circuit in the early '50s and that around 1957 the RRE had made a model – the Royal Radar Establishment?

Moore:

I have seen a reference to one of his early statements. In very general terms he defined the kind of thing we were talking about here.

Wolff:

He used the words solid circuit, which is kind of interesting. Do you remember at that time at Fairchild having heard of the term?

Moore:

No, I don't remember. I don't think I knew of Dummer at that time.

Wolff:

It's kind of intriguing to speculate why they didn't invent the thing.

Moore:

I think they were lacking in the technology to do it. Having the technological base is very important in these things coming to pass. This was about the time that the big molecular electronics idea was getting kicked off also by the Air Force. They were looking for things quite contrary to integrated circuits. They were looking for functional blocks in which I think the quartz crystal remains the full useful example – something where you couldn't tell what the individual things were doing but collectively they performed an electronic function. To get his later contracts, Kilby had a tough time selling them on the idea that an integrated circuit was really consistent with what they were after. Was Bob's recollection reasonably close to mine?

Wolff:

There's a difference in a way. I should ask him about this Kilby point. The way he remembers it, is that as a result of the earlier work at Fairchild, particularly the planar technology and metallization – but particularly the planar – Noyce said that Ralls challenged him to think about broadening the planar concept and looking at what else could be done with it. Therefore he started thinking about circuits. He said that one ordinary day it sort of all came together in his head and he sketched on the board his concept of how to put transistors, diodes and resistors together. I guess the idea was isolating multiple domains as a key thing. In his lab notebook from January 1959 he has some sketches, which he says are essentially what he put on the board. He doesn't remember who was in the room. He said maybe you were there, maybe Victor Grinich.

Moore:

Grinich would likely have been there. I'm not sure.

Wolff:

Maybe Ralls. He doesn't remember.

### Moore’s Absence from the Meeting

Moore:

Maybe one reason why I remember this really specifically is that it was very soon after we had split the responsibilities there and this happened at a meeting to which I was not invited because I was off doing engineering things rather than worrying about the R&D stuff. I was exposed to the results of it soon after the meeting.

Wolff:

What you have been telling me is what you heard. You weren't in the room.

Moore:

I wasn't in the room. That's right. I heard about it soon after that, and the fact that I wasn't at the meeting probably caused it to leave a more indelible impression on my mind than it would have had I been there.

Wolff:

You could be recalling the same meeting.

Moore:

It could be the same meeting, but I'm quite sure it involved essentially the key guys that were in the R&D group. That group included Last and Hoerni. Grinich would likely have been there. Ralls I would not have known about. He was an outsider that may or may not have been there. My recollection of hearing the description of this meeting was sitting down to say, "Okay, what can we do with our technology and its direction?" Maybe Bob had already thought about this a fair amount of time before that meeting, but he came forth with these ideas of the junction isolation and the interconnection.

### Others at the Meeting

Wolff:

That's very interesting. I should get back with him on that one point and ask him, because we never really talked about a motivation and whether he was familiar with the TI publication and whether that was what had done it. Who else would you think I should ask for a recollection of this meeting? [Victor] Grinich?

Moore:

Jay Last might be a good one.

Wolff:

Is he still at Teledyne?

Moore:

No, he's not there anymore. He still lives in Southern California. Grinich would surely be another possibility, but I'm not as sure that Grinich was there.

Wolff:

Grinich is at Stanford. Right?

Moore:

Yes.

Wolff:

How do you think I could find Last? Do you know where he lives?

Moore:

I think he bought Robert Mitchum's house. I think it must be Beverly Hills.

### Important Inventions Leading to the IC

Wolff:

How would you describe Bob Noyce's main achievement in this? He's quite a diffident fellow and doesn't blow his own horn. Talking to him, one gets a picture that the rest of you invented a lot of the important things and he just sort of thought of putting them together.

Moore:

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One gets peculiar views of this. Of the things that we invented in the early days at Fairchild that really made the whole technology go, I'm not even sure that those were the most important – the two that are associated with the integrated circuit – in getting the thing started.

Wolff:

The two being what?

Moore:

The two being the junction isolation and the interconnection, which are usually associated directly with the integrated circuit. I can think of two other things that at least at the time impressed me very much more. One of them was the use of aluminum for the contacts to the transistors. Until that time nobody had any idea at all one metal could be used to make contact with both the emitter and base. I remember struggling with all kinds of metals to try to do this, and one day Bob said, "Why don't you try aluminum?" From everything we knew, aluminum shouldn't work. I said, "Okay. I'll try aluminum." It worked beautifully. That was major breakthrough and got us around a huge hurdle in that technology. There was one other similar thing that is not so obvious with respect to making good transistors that he threw out the same kind of way. These were both cases of proposing something that I really thought wouldn't work when he made the proposal, then running out and trying it and having it get us by significant barriers. Bob was very good at coming up with ideas like that.

Wolff:

The aluminum was important in integrated circuits.

Moore:

It was important in the whole thing. It was important in making a practical double-diffused transistor first of all, which was the first thing we set out to do.

Wolff:

And your recollection related to that.

Moore:

That's right. That really got the double-diffused transistor out of the laboratory as a practical device. A lot of the rest of it was many detailed contributions to making the technology fly. Jean Hoerni is given credit for coming up with the idea of the planar structure and he certainly was its principal champion at Fairchild, but Bob certainly suggested things very close to that prior to Jean's idea on it. It was a pretty close-knit group, and Bob was certainly the idea man in the group. Some of us were detail technologists that made some of these things happen.

Wolff:

Was the double-diffused transistor before the IC?

Moore:

Yes. That was before the planar. We made mesa double-diffused transistors first, and then we went to the planar structure and left the oxide on the junction, which is generally credited to Hoerni. And that was key to having that and aluminum to run the leads up over the aluminum for example. It's hard to say in something that is as evolutionary a technology as this specifically which were the big steps forward that really broke with previous tradition and which were just another significant advance in the evolution. Certainly Bob Noyce's collective contribution through that time period resulted in a major change.

Wolff:

That's interesting. That's very helpful. Do you think the others would agree with that?

Moore:

I think so.

### Contributions of Kilby, Noyce and Lehovec

Wolff:

Speaking of contributions, let's look at the actual invention. It is my understanding that the upshot of the whole thing with quartz is that Jack Kilby and Bob Noyce were co-inventors – Bob with the metallization and Kilby with the idea of putting two devices together in a chip.

Moore:

If you take the Patent Office's resolution, it was Kurt Lehovec from the isolation point of view. Bob lost the patent on the junction isolation to Lehovec. All Lehovec ever did was file a paper application with a patent as near as I can tell.

Wolff:

I missed the point.

Moore:

That was the third major invention that was required to make a practical integrated circuit. There was an interference between Noyce and Lehovec on that and the Patent Office gave the patent to Lehovec.

Wolff:

Is Lehovec technically an inventor of the IC?

Moore:

According to the Patent Office. It's one of the important things that was needed. I think in the technical community, because all he did was file a paper patent application, he is not recognized as the inventor. Success has many fathers and all that kind of stuff.

Wolff:

Noyce lost that to him on an interference?

Moore:

Yes.

Wolff:

I didn't know about that. Where was Lehovec?

Moore:

I believe he was at Sprague Electric Company.

Wolff:

The technical community mainly looks at Jack Kilby and Bob Noyce. Is that right?

Moore:

Yes, I think that's right.

Wolff:

Isn't Kilby generally credited with having been the first person to build an IC, though not maybe a practical one?

Moore:

Yes. I credit him with such. In fact, I wrote an article for Encyclopedia Britannica a while back where I said that. They edited it out.

Wolff:

Tell me how you look at it.

Moore:

I see Kilby being the first guy with the idea – and the first structure – of a rudimentary integrated circuit. The Fairchild contribution was essentially the technology that made it practical. Bob Noyce was the key guy in seeing how to tie the Fairchild technology to the idea.

Wolff:

Do you feel Lehovec played a part?

Moore:

In my view, no, he really didn't.

Wolff:

What is Lehovec's patent title?

Moore:

I don't know it's title, but it very directly covers multiple junction isolation.

Wolff:

That's interesting. I didn't know that. You told me when we talked in the fall that you would be helpful in refereeing between Kilby and Bob Noyce. Is that what you meant?

Moore:

Yes, I guess this is really what I meant.

### Contrast Between Fairchild and Texas Instrument

Wolff:

That's very helpful. I understand that in 1957 Fairchild's parent company put an 18-month limit on its backing for Fairchild.

Moore: