Robert Noyce – the “Mayor of Silicon Valley”

Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore in front of the Intel SC1 building in Santa Clara in 1970. Image: Intel Free Press

Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore in front of the Intel SC1 building in Santa Clara in 1970. Image: Intel Free Press

On December 12, 1926American engineer and inventor Robert Noyce was born. Nicknamed “the Mayor of Silicon Valley,” Noyce co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel Corporation in 1968. He is credited along with Jack Kilby with the realization of the first integrated circuit or microchip that fueled the personal computer revolution.

Robert Noyce is known to have been a visionary and creative already early in his life. At the age of 12, he built a boy-sized aircraft with his brother, which they used to fly from the roof of the Grinnell College stables. The young man further built a radio and motorized his sled by welding a propeller and an engine from an old washing machine. During his senior year in high school, Noyce took the Grinnell College freshman physics course and entered the college in 1945. When he graduated in 1949, Noyce received an honor from his classmates, the Brown Derby Prize. It recognized “the senior man who earned the best grades with the least amount of work”. During his graduate studies, Noyce was also nicknamed “Rapid Robert” due to his quick mind. Robert Noyce received his doctorate in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953.

At the Philco Corporation in Philadelphia, Noyce took his first position as a research engineer. He joined William Shockley, a co-inventor of the transistor and eventual Nobel Prize winner, at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, a division of Beckman Instruments. Noyce later co-founded the Fairchild Semiconductor corporation.

In 1968, Robert Noyce founded Intel along with Gordon Moore and Andrew Grove. Noyce was regarded as a highly visionary and inspiring persona while Moore and Grove were mostly regarded technologists. Robert Noyce also is known to have brought a more relaxed working atmosphere into intel. He rewarded as well as encouraged teamwork and his follow-your-bliss management style set the tone for many Valley success stories. Some called Noyce’s management style a “roll up your sleeves” style. It is believed that he avoided expensive corporate cars as well as reserved parking spaces, private jets, offices, and furnishings in favor of a less-structured, relaxed working environment in which everyone contributed and no one received lavish benefits.

 

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