Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore were already Silicon Valley legends when they founded Intel in 1968. The two men had been among the founders of Fairchild Semiconductors in 1957, and in the ensuing years they had found tremendous success: Fairchild was a thriving business, Noyce and Moore had grown personally wealthy, Noyce had co-invented the integrated circuit — one of the most important devices of the century — and Moore had articulated Moore’s Law, a defining principle of technology development.
Nevertheless, Noyce and Moore were growing restless. Fairchild Semiconductors operated as a subsidiary of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, and they felt the parent company wasn’t reinvesting enough of the proceeds from the highly profitable semiconductor business into the research and development of new semiconductor technologies. In 1968, Noyce and Moore resigned from Fairchild. Noyce explained his hopes for the future in his letter of resignation:
“I do not expect to join any company which is simply a manufacturer of semiconductors. I would rather try to find some small company which is trying to develop some product or technology which no one has yet done. To stay independent (and small) I might form a new company, after a vacation.”
Noyce and Moore incorporated their new venture on July 18th and made a commitment to continued innovation a fundamental component of their company’s culture.
Though Noyce and Moore had a clear vision for their company, they struggled to find a name for it. They used N.M. Electronics on the initial paperwork, but that seemed a bit bland. After much deliberation they decided to rename the company Intel, a portmanteau of integrated electronics that Noyce thought “sounded sort of sexy.” When it came out that Intelco was already the name of a midwestern hotel chain, Noyce and Moore purchased the right to use the name. “We thought that paying $15,000 was easier than thinking up another alternative,” Moore recalled.
Intel began operations on August 1 with about a dozen engineers working from a conference room in the old Union Carbide building on Middlefield Road in Mountain View, California. Union Carbide was in the process of moving out as Intel moved in, so the conference room was the only space available at first.
For most of its first year the company focused exclusively on research and development, wanting to develop technologies no one else offered. At the time, Moore described the full facility as “larger than we need.” Intel did not stay small for long, however. By the end of its third calendar year of operations, the company had already contributed several of the most important inventions of the twentieth century, begun turning a profit, and outgrown the facility that Moore had considered too large.
In the intervening years, the company has reoriented its focus within the semiconductor industry several times over and has navigated numerous bull and bear markets. And throughout it all, Intel has maintained a high research and development budget to ensure that the company’s commitment to new products and technologies would continue unabated.