If you’re reading this piece, checking email, visiting Facebook, or tweeting, give a silent thanks in part to Andy Grove.
Andy Grove arrived in NYC with only $20 and the clothes on his back.
Andy Grove was one of the founders of Intel, the company that invented the microprocessor—the "computer-on-a-chip" that runs most of the communication, information, and entertainment devices that make up our modern world. Grove, who recently passed away, was a techno-achiever who helped create that world.
Grove’s success at Intel began with his success at literally escaping death. He was born András Gróf, a Jewish boy in Hungary in 1936. When fascists took over his country, he was forced to wear a Star of David and was destined for extermination. Fortunately, he and his mother hid in a neighbor's home, thus escaping the Holocaust. . . only to face a harsh new communist regime after the war. When Soviet tanks brutally put down a popular revolt against Red rule in 1956, he escaped by walking out of Hungary into Austria. He then made his way to New York City with $20 and the clothes on his back.
In the land of the free, he earned a PhD in chemical engineering at U.C. Berkeley, and in 1963 went to work for Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore at Fairchild Semiconductor. Noyce, Fairchild’s president, was the co-inventor of the integrated circuit (the chip) which would replace bulkier transistors. In July 1968, Noyce and Moore raised $25 million and co-founded Intel, the name implying "integrated electronics." Grove and his fellow Hungarian refugee, Les Vadasz, were their first two employees.
At Intel, Noyce was the big-picture visionary. The silicon substrate in the integrated chip he co-invented gave rise to the name Silicon Valley. In 1971 three Intel engineers invented the microprocessor—the CPU in your device today. Moore led Intel's R&D, while Grove oversaw Intel's manufacturing. In 1965 Moore observed that every year the transistors on chips were doubling in number. The term “Moore’s law” comes from his observations, and with a few adjustments over the years largely remains in effect today. But the doubling was not automatic. It took continual, focused invention on the part of Noyce, Moore, Grove, and their teams.
Reacting to Fairchild's stiff culture, Noyce brought an open, non-hierarchical culture to Intel—ideas could flow in every direction for optimal results. But someone had to herd the cats, and that was Andy Grove. Grove's singular contribution was not technical, but managerial. As eventual CEO, he made sure the organization continued to create new and better products, and he ensured that Intel produced them at prices and in qualities that revolutionized a long list of technologies. In the process, Intel grew from a start-up to a company with a nearly $200 billion market capitalization. No wonder Grove was known not only as a tech innovator, but a guru on business management. And for his impact on our world he was Time magazine’s 1997 “Man of the Year.”
In 1983 Michael Maibach was hired by Dr. Noyce to start the Intel Government Affairs Department. Maibach worked with Grove, Noyce, Moore, and Vadasz for eighteen years. On Grove’s passing, Maibach offers us these reflections on the man: "Everything Andy did, he did with purpose and with excellence as a goal. He demanded complete dedication of himself, and all of us who worked with him. Andy, along with Noyce, Moore and Vadasz, also brought to Intel an exceptionally high level of integrity. Communications were clear and honest, mistakes identified and addressed. Improvement was constant for those who wanted to succeed at the company. Every person I know who worked with Andy Grove is both proud of and humbled to have known and learned from him."
So let’s celebrate the life of Andy Grove. He was one of the architects of our modern techno-world and a model of the achiever who calls upon the best within himself!
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.