Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »
Farewell To Andrew Grove: Instrumental In Jumpstarting PCs and CAD
March 24th, 2016 by Jeff Rowe
Earlier this week many of us in the MCAD community were saddened to hear of the passing of Andrew (Andy) Grove, the former CEO and Chairman of Intel Corp. He was one of the most acclaimed and influential personalities of the computer and Internet eras, as well as being instrumental in the development and proliferation of the CAD software as we know it today that runs on PCs.
Born András Gróf in Budapest, Hungary in 1936, Mr. Grove came to the United States in 1956. He studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York, completing his Ph.D at the University of California at Berkeley in 1963. After graduation, he was hired by Gordon Moore (of Moore’s Law fame) at Fairchild Semiconductor as a researcher and rose to assistant head of R&D under Moore. When Robert Noyce and Moore left Fairchild to found Intel in 1968, Mr. Grove was their first hire.
He became Intel’s President in 1979 and CEO in 1987, and served as Chairman of the Board from 1997 to 2005. During his time at Intel and in retirement, Grove was a very influential figure in technology and business, and several business leaders, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, sought his advice.
Mr. Grove played a critical role in the decision to move Intel’s focus from memory chips to microprocessors and led the firm’s move as a recognized consumer brand. Under his leadership, Intel produced the chips, including the 386 and Pentium, that helped foster the PC era. The company also increased annual revenues from $1.9 billion to more than $26 billion.
Just as we could have rode into the sunset, along came the Internet, and it tripled the significance of the PC.
Mr. Grove conceded in a 2001 interview with Wired magazine, was that he initially failed to take microprocessors seriously enough. “I was running an assembly line designed to build memory chips,” he said. “I saw the microprocessor as a bloody nuisance.”
With Mr. Grove at the top, Intel relatively quickly made the transition from memory chip to microprocessor giant. By the early 1980s, personal computers had become more widespread — and Intel microprocessors powered more than 80 percent of the new machines. With Microsoft, itself a new software company, Intel would recast the computer industry, and the two companies would be nicknamed “Wintel,” as they brought personal computers into homes.
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”
Besides overseeing the development of Intel’s memory chips and microprocessors R&D, Mr. Grove gained a reputation as an effective albeit ruthless manager who urged employees and intimidated rivals in a hyper-competitive high-tech business world. Mr. Grove’s famous slogan, Only the Paranoid Survive, became the title of his 1996 best seller describing his management philosophy.
Mr. Grove kept meetings brief and discussions were often heated. “Andy Grove helped build a philosophy at Intel Corp. known as ‘creative confrontation,’ ” wrote The Wall Street Journal in 2002. “The phrase, in essence, means that it’s better for employees to get in shouting matches and solve problems quickly.” However, most of the shouting was done by Mr. Grove, who was named in 1984 by Fortune as one of the country’s toughest bosses.
Rivals complained that Intel had a monopoly on microprocessors, the most profitable segment of the semiconductor market. “It’s a problem of patents, not technology,” said Lim Hyung Kyu, head of worldwide research for Samsung Electronics, in a 2004 interview with Institutional Investor magazine. “And Intel has all the patents.”
Other competitors have said that Mr. Grove warned Intel customers, such Dell, Compaq, and Gateway, not to buy microprocessors elsewhere, or else.
Leaders have to act more quickly today. The pressure comes much faster.
Mr. Grove often insisted that the criticism of his management style and business tactics never bothered him, and that he was unconcerned about his place in history. “I’ve had a wonderful life,” he told Wired magazine in a 2001 interview. “What people are going to write about me 10 years after I’m dead — who cares?” Quite a humble statement from a person with his prominence and lasting influence.
I can remember the first computer I owned. It was a CompUSA PC with an Intel 286 CPU, 1MB of RAM, a 40 MB hard drive, and a small monitor that displayed amber characters. At the time I thought I’d never outgrow it, but of course, I did, and I loved that first computer. I got started with CAD with that computer, too.
Over the years I also remember reading with great interest about the development of Intel, as well as many stories about its leader, Andy Grove. I always admired him for his vision and drive at the dawn of the PC era and beyond. He obviously didn’t do it alone, but he was one of the pioneers who forged ahead in the then new frontier of PCs that made CAD possible for just about anybody as a great equalizer. A lot of us have him to thank for where we are today and I personally won’t soon forget him.