“Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?”
— ROBERT NOYCE, “co-inventor of the integrated circuit”
TODAY, SILICON VALLEY salutes its very own mayor. And rarely does Google’s tribute “Doodle” strike quite so close to home.
Google’s homepage logo Monday is emblazoned upon a microprocessor to celebrate what would have been the 84th birthday of the late Robert “Bob” Noyce, the father of the microchip who co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel and earned the moniker “mayor of Silicon Valley.”
Google, in other words, honors our integrated memory of the man.
In the late-’50s, Noyce and Jack Kilby invented the “first practical integrated circuit,” as Leslie Berlin wrote in “The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley.” Nearly a decade later, Noyce and Gordon Moore, his Fairchild co-founder, launched Intel, reshaping the future of computing.
The Doodle, which Google patented this year, also honors an inventor who holds more than a dozen patents, including the one for the “Semiconductor Device-and-Lead Structure.”
Noyce was also a Silicon Valley statesman who, according to Intel, ”helped found the Semiconductor Industry Association, was a Regent of the University of California, served on the President’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, and was the first Chief Executive Officer of SEMATECH.”
Noyce also figures prominently this year in Walter Isaacson’s current bestseller “Steve Jobs,” which characterizes Noyce as being like a professional father figure to the Apple co-founder, who died in October.
By the time Noyce himself died in 1990, at age 62, he was one of the towering figures in the personal computing revolution.
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Born in 1927, Noyce had an Iowa boyhood that rings as if right out of a Spielberg adventure: He tinkered with engines and radio technology, toy aircraft and a motorized sled.
Noyce attended Grinnell College (majoring in physics and mathematics) and MIT (doctorate in physics); he was encouraged to attend the latter at the urging of influential professor Grant Gale, who helped deliver such then-new technology as transistors to Noyce’s eager hands and hungry intellect.
The young man would go west — to Mountain View, Calif. — in the ’50s. And by 1957, he and Moore were among the “traitorous eight” who exited Shockley Semiconductor to form Fairchild.
A year later, it was Kilby who — using germanium — would invent the integrated circuit (work for which he would win a Nobel). Just months later, Noyce improved upon Kilby’s work, replacing germanium with silicon.
A decade later, Intel would launch largely on the vision of Noyce (complemented by the talents of Moore and Andrew Grove), and it became the first successful major microprocessor company.
Today, it is only fitting that Google honor the memory of a man who provided the world, technologically, with so much memory.
Comic Riffs’ TOP TEN GOOGLE DOODLES OF 2011 :
1. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
2. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE ANIMATION DANCE
3. LUCILLE BALL: CHANNELING THE HIGHLIGHTS
4. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
5. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
6. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
7. JULES VERNE: DEEP-SEA DOODLE
8. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
9. THOMAS EDISON: THE ILLUMINATING DOODLE
10. MARK TWAIN: THE HANNIBAL PANORAMA