Andy Grove, the Silicon Valley elder statesman, who made Intel Corp into the world’s top chipmaker and helped usher in the personal computer age, died yesterday, aged 79, Intel said.
The company did not describe the circumstances of his death, but Grove, who endured the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II, living under a fake name, and went to the US to escape the chaos of Soviet rule, had suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
Grove was Intel’s first hire after it was founded in 1968 and became the practical-minded member of a triumvirate that eventually led “Intel Inside” processors to be used in more than 80 percent of the world’s personal computers.
With his motto “only the paranoid survive,” which became the title of his best-selling management book, Grove championed an innovative environment within Intel that became a blueprint for successful California startups.
Grove, who was named “Man of the Year” by Time magazine in 1997, encouraged disagreement and insisted employees be vigilant of disruptions in industry and technology that could be major dangers — or opportunities — for Intel. In doing so, he could be mercurial and demanding with employees who he thought were not doing enough — in 1981, he demanded staff work two extra hours per day with no extra pay.
Grove’s overhaul of Intel’s business — switching from digital memory to processors — was an early example of his obsession with detecting major shifts in business and technology, and staying flexible enough to move quickly and make the most of them.
“It is not that you should not plan, but you should not regard your plans to be anything more than a baseline model of what might happen,” Grove said.
While Intel founders Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore proposed much of the chip technology that helped create the semiconductor industry, Grove was the stickler for detail, who turned their ideas into actual products. He was responsible for driving growth in Intel’s profits and stock price through the 1980s and 1990s.
Grove became Intel’s president in 1979, chief executive officer in 1987, and chairman and CEO in 1997. He gave up his CEO title in 1998 and stayed on as chairman until 2004.
In its early years, Intel focused on making DRAM memory chips. When Japanese competition soared, Grove made the fateful decision to reinvent Intel as a manufacturer of microprocessors — the brains at the center of personal computers and other electronic devices.
As the PC industry took off in the 1980s, Intel supplied its processors to IBM Corp and then to Compaq Computer Corp and other manufacturers making “IBM clone” PCs.
Intel’s chips, along with Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating system, quickly became an industry standard in the exploding PC industry, with Grove funneling profits into research and development to create increasingly faster processors. Under his stewardship, the Pentium brand and “Intel Inside” logo became widely recognized by consumers.
Intel remains one of the world’s leading semiconductor companies, but the PC chipmaker is wrestling to adapt to trends toward smaller gadgets, such as smartphones and tablets.
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