The most important technology for the region’s growth was, of course, the semiconductor. William Shockley, who had been one of the inventors of the transistor at Bell Labs in New Jersey, moved out to Mountain View and, in 1956, started a
company to build transistors using silicon rather than the more expensive germanium that was then commonly used. But Shockley became increasingly erratic and abandoned his silicon transistor project, which led eight of his engineers—most
notably Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore—to break away to form Fairchild Semiconductor. That company grew to twelve thousand employees, but it
fragmented in 1968, when Noyce lost a power struggle to become CEO. He took Gordon Moore and founded a company that they called Integrated Electronics
Corporation, which they soon smartly abbreviated to Intel. Their third employee was Andrew Grove, who later would grow the company by shifting its focus from memory
chips to microprocessors. Within a few years there would be more than fifty companies in the area making semiconductors.
The exponential growth of this industry was correlated with the phenomenon famously discovered by Moore, who in 1965 drew a graph of the speed of integrated circuits, based on the number of transistors that could be placed on a chip, and
showed that it doubled about every two years, a trajectory that could be expected to continue. This was reaffirmed in 1971, when Intel was able to etch a complete central
processing unit onto one chip, the Intel 4004, which was dubbed a “microprocessor.” Moore’s Law has held generally true to this day, and its reliable projection of performance to price allowed two generations of young
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates,
to create cost projections
for their forward-leaning products.