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This month in tech history: July - Intel founded

Intel’s ‘dum dum dum dum’ is probably one of the most recognisable corporate tech sounds around, alongside Nokia’s signature ringtone, and oh-so-long-ago AOL’s ‘You’ve got mail!’ So ingrained in our minds is the idea of Intel and chips, that it’s hardly surprising that it holds nearly 80% of the market share. But where did it all begin?

Intel was founded in Mountain View, California on 18 July 1968 by chemist Gordon E. Moore (the same Moore we have to thank for Moore’s Law), and physicist Robert Noyce (“the Mayor of Silicon Valley”). Both Moore and Noyce were part of the ‘traitorous eight’ that left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in 1957 and went on to form Fairchild Semiconductor, a leader of the semiconductor industry that became an incubator of Silicon Valley, and was later involved in the creation of Intel.

Moore, a holder of numerous notable awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, served as Executive Vice President at Intel before becoming President in 1975. He was Chief Executive Officer from April 1979 until April 1987, when he became Chairman of the Board. He was named Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation in 1997.

Intel’s third early employee was chemical engineer Andy Grove, who joined on the day of the company’s incorporation, and went on to run the company as president in 1979, its CEO in 1987, and its Chairman and CEO in 1997. He relinquished his CEO title in May 1998, and his position as chairman of the board in November 2004, but continues to work at Intel as a senior advisor.

A number of names for the fledgling company were considered. “Moore Noyce” was quickly rejected as inappropriate for an electronics company, so instead they used “NM Electronics” before renaming their company Integrated Electronics or “Intel”. Unfortunately, since “Intel” was already trademarked by Intelco, they had to buy the rights for the name.

The total initial investment in Intel is recorded as $2.5 million convertible debentures and $10,000 from investor and venture capitalist Arthur Rock, who was named as chairman of the new company. Two years later, Intel’s initial public offering (IPO) raised $6.8 million ($23.50 per share).

Intel’s first products were shift register memory and random-access memory integrated circuits, and Intel was a leader in the DRAM, SRAM, and ROM markets throughout the 1970s. The company went on to produce more and more powerful processors, moving on to Solid-state drives from 2008, and mobile processors in 2011.

The company has suffered a number of controversies; the Core 2 Duo advertisement controversy; a decision to operate in Israel on Saturday, Shabbat; complaints of religious discrimination; and claims that Intel ‘weeds out’ older employees. Intel has also been accused, numerous times, of competition violations in Japan, the EU, South Korea and the US. However, despite this, Intel has consistently been top of the list for semiconductor sales worldwide since 1991.

In his book, Giants of enterprise: seven business innovators and the empires they built, Richard Tedlow quoted Arthur Rock as saying that for Intel to succeed, the company needed Noyce, Moore and Andrew Grove, in that order. Noyce: the visionary, born to inspire; Moore: the virtuoso of technology; and Grove: the technologist turned management scientist. And while it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, it seems he may have been right – Intel’s full-year financial figures for 2014 showed record revenues of $55.9bn, up 6% on the previous year. And don’t worry about the 85% drop in mobile revenue – they have a plan.

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Kate Hoy

Kate Hoy is Editor of IDG Connect

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