Moore Memory – Epoch I

This is the ‘pre-cambrian’ explosion of semiconductors that created many categories and industries starting with the invention of the first diode to the shift from memory driving semiconductor processes to logic (the famous Andy Grove Pivot).

As shown in the visual below, it was the era of Bipolar (pre-CMOS), the creation of the first calculator based on 4004 that punctuated the beginning of modern semiconductor and Intel’s thumbprint in the evolution of semiconductors.

Going down the memory lane, its 1968 and the creation of the first semiconductor memory which was followed soon by frederico faggin and the 4004 architecture and the beginning of an instruction set (x86) that has remained upwards compatible (largely) to-date. Amazing that it has withstood the test of processor evolution and competition for 50 years almost. It was the height of IBM mainframe with its 370 and 360 architectures, DEC with its mini super computers and Sperry and Univac / Burroughs challenging IBM for business/commercial computing.

It was also the beginning of the modern version of venture capital with Arthur Rock making his first investment in Intel. 1972 was also the vietnam end game, oil crisis while quietly Arpanet with its first pings between two locations across the country happen. Seeds of ethernet was sown then which has also survived the onslaught of other ideas.

The perfect mix of Ethernet, PNP devices (flavors changed with time), CISC/x86 and by late 1970s, Microsoft and BSD Unix – all of these were given birth in this era and lifted so many companies, so many entrepreneurs, so many industries, countries too. (Taiwan eventually, which is in the news lately).

1976-1980 with 8086 – the birth of the modern microprocessor, BSD Unix and DOS. Looking back as in the Epoch III, it was the ARM, iPhone and AWS – how co-incident (within years) technologies that are seemingly unliked (Unix and Windows), but play a role eventually for new categories of platforms.

That era ended around Circa 1984 (roughly) 16 years, with Intel dropping memory for logic (a critical decision by Andy Grove), the birth of RISC with two competing professors and institutions (Berkeley and Stanford, Hennessy and Patterson) and the emergence of the Mac.

Little did I know reflecting back or googling back in history, that this era was punctuated by other magnetic drives giving birth to the modern hard disk, compilers and most important of all CMOS – complementary metal oxide semiconductor. CMOS was not Intel’s initial choice, but it came just by sheer nature of its characteristics beating out NMOS, PMOS and more importantly Bipolar or emitter coupled logic – not for power density (which was the reason claimed them) – just the scalability it showed over time.

Software as an industry/category was effectively created by Microsoft (mainframes and minicomputers had a closed software ecosystem). Oracle and SAP were founded and the big enterprise software market was effectively created at the same time as client software company was founded (microsoft and perhaps Apple) – Co-incidence?. Database was a separate category / company or bundled by the big mainframe makers.

1984: Big Brother did not appear and it was the dawn of open and free internet, open systems (Sun), new microprocessor approach (RISC), compilers became good enough to beat most hand written code.

Little did I know 1984 was the year IP law was formulated thanks to intense lobbying by Intel to fend off the Japanese who were competing rather well afgainst Intel on memory (which is no longer in Japan either now).

Rising tide lifts all boats. The chart below the boats that the confluence of MOS, Unix, Windows, PC, Server and the 10Mbps ethernet (which is now 10,000 times faster).

It was the birth and quick death of AI (expert systems) within a short span of a few years. Categories that were founded were Database, personal computing (SW and hardware), technical workstations that led to client-server later, birth of modern networking, OEM business (separation of selling hardware from software), Internet and the end or the beginning of the end of vertically integrated Mainframe, Intel and memory, (NMOS, PMOS, Bipolar)

My professional life in technology and semiconductors (which was not the original plan like most) started at the end of this era competing with Intel via RISC, Sun, CMOS and in hindsight carried through the Epoch II (1987-2003), which was the exponential part of Moore’s law.

How lucky I was in retrospect to enter the semiconductor industry Epoch II. That’s the next blog.

Author: renuraman

Always connecting the dots....

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