In July, 2018 Intel Corporation will celebrate its 50th birthday. Yes, the Intel chip has been around for almost 50 years! On its 35th birthday Intel workers at its world headquarters in Santa Clara buried a time capsule in an entry courtyard. This capsule will be opened during the 2018 birthday celebrations. It reportedly contains Intel technology, a 300mm Pentium 4 processor wafer, and cultural items, an inscrutable Costa Rican newspaper. I’m pretty sure it won’t contain a 2003 joke book or a copy of Call of Duty, the 1st person shooter video game franchise that was launched that year. Intel is a very serious, fact-driven place.
I realized this as I peered through a circle in the free Intel Museum at its world headquarters. The circle was focused on the courtyard. I wondered if I should step outside the entrance again and see if I could find an ASIANS ONLY sign because the museum was crowded with Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese tour groups. I strolled into the gift shop and talked to the only other Caucasian in the place. He was busy ringing up purchases because a long line of Asians was quietly waiting to buy Frisbees. When the purchasers happily left, I asked the seller what was the shop’s best selling item and he said bunny men. Bunny men were dancers who debuted on the 1997 Super Bowl and became cultural icons. The seller had only one on display. It was a hand-sized, soft doll suitable for attachment to a book bag. The young man read my mind. “We’re out of them,” he said. He added that Asians wanted only American made goods.
I moved on to the displays. They began with Intel’s history. Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce founded it in 1968. Andy Grove soon joined them and the company took off. Its 1st year revenue was $2,672,000. Five years later it was $66 million. I read through the entire history and finally understood why Intel’s stock split and split in the 1990s as, among its innovations, Intel’s flash card memory grew and phones shrank. I learned that the word Intel stands for Integrated Electronics and read other dry, techie stuff. It quickly became rather overwhelming.
So I talked to Ryan who was waiting to take his next tour group through the museum. I asked him what his favorite display was and he took me to “Zoom into a chip”. It was a really cool, hands-on exhibit at a level even I could easily understand. Totally into it, he told me to touch the nearby silicon ingot. Silicon is the 2nd most abundant substance in the world. #1 is oxygen. Wafers are sliced from these ingots, and Ryan told me that it was the most purfied silicon object I would ever touch. It was an unexplainable thrill.
Robert Noyce said, “Don’t be encumbered by history. Go off and do something wonderful.” This quote was at the exit, and an Asian teenager was assuming a Noyce-like pose in front of it while his grinning mother took his picture. “The Intel Museum is a 5 Compass endeavor.