Long before Google, and even before Apple and Microsoft, there was Intel. The microelectronics company started in Mountain View, California on July 18, 1968, 55 years ago today.
The company has its own website on the founding of Intel that’s worth a look. It states that it was founded by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, who were already well-known in the Northern California area for helping to launch another company, Fairchild Semiconductors, in 1957.
Noyce helped to create the monolithic integrated circuit in 1959 while he was at the company, which is the basis for the modern personal computer chip.
However, Noyce and Moore, who passed away just last March, decided they wanted to leave Fairchild and form their own microelectronics hardware company. While the official Intel site doesn’t mention this, the third co-founder of Intel was the financier and the first “venture capitalist” Arthur Rock.
He had also helped to get Fairchild started, and when Noyce and Moore wanted to launch this new business, Rock was available to get the money to start this new venture. Encyclopedia.com has a quote from Rock who stated:
Bob (Noyce) just called me on the phone. We’d been friends for a long time.… Documents? There was practically nothing. Noyce’s reputation was good enough. We put out a page-and-a-half little circular, but I’d raised the money even before people saw it.
According to the story, Rock made 15 phone calls in just two hours. He managed to secure $2.5 million to start the company, which was a massive amount of money at that time.
As far as the name of the company, another company history site said that at first it was called NM Electronics, using the first letters of Noyce and Moore. However, the founders quickly decided they wanted a better name.
They tried a number of mashups of different names, like Calex (California Electronics), Digitcom (Digital Computer), and Comptek (Computer Technology). In the end, they made the choice to use Intel (Integrated Electronics). Sounds simple, right? Well, there was one small problem, according to Intel’s history page:
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.
As far as the first logo for the company, Hatchwise claims it was designed by Noyce and Moore as well. The sans-serif font was used with a blue logo, with the “e” dropped below the “t” and “l” “creating a look as if it had fallen or dropped from the line.” The logo was used for decades and only got a refresh in 2005.
Ironically, the current logo for the company, which was first introduced in 2020, looks very much like the first Intel logo, except the “e” is no longer below the “t” and “l”, and the dot on the “i” is a lighter color of blue.
The new company started hiring people and on August 1 it moved into its first headquarters in Mountain View, inside a building that was previously used by Union Carbide.
The first hardware product from Intel was the 3101 Schottky random-access memory chip. However, that was basically a placeholder product for the company to get revenue while it developed something better.
In November 1971, Intel launched the 4004 microprocessor, which was the first such chip that could be programmed to do different tasks in software, rather than hardwire those features in the chip itself.
That was the true start of Intel’s rise in the tech company, and today it is still a major force in PC and server CPUs, despite a lot of competition from other companies.