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#166 Robert Noyce (Intel)
February 8th, 2021 | E166

What I learned from reading The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley by Leslie Berlin.


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[0:01] Bob Noyce took me under his wing,” Steve Jobs explains. “I was young, in my twenties. He was in his early fifties. He tried to give me the lay of the land, give me a perspective that I could only partially understand.” Jobs continues, “You can’t really understand what is going on now unless you understand what came before.” 

[2:00] He inspired in nearly everyone whom he encountered a sense that the future had no limits , and that together they could , as he liked to say, “Go off and do something wonderful.” 

[3:15] Warren Buffett , who served on a college board with Noyce for several years said: “Everybody liked Bob. He was an extraordinarily smart guy who didn’t need to let you know he was that smart. He could be your neighbor, but with lots of machinery in his head.” 

[12:01] Noyce was slowly gathering experiences that would anchor his adult approach to life, which was not so much an approach as a headlong rush into any challenge with the unshakable assumption that he would emerge not only successful, but triumphant. 

[14:18] Every night before he fell asleep, Noyce would mentally rehearse each of his dives in slow motion until he could see himself executing them perfectly. He called this habit “envisioning myself at the next level,” and he carried it with him throughout his life. In his mind’s eye, he could always see himself achieving something more

[21:16] Bob was not the type to slow down for much of anything

[33:02] His approach was to know the science cold and then “forget about it.” He did not slog or grind his way to ideas; he felt they just came to him. When he heard Picasso’s famous line about artistic creativity — “I do not seek; I find” — Noyce said that he invented in the same way. 

[35:31] “I don’t have any recollection of a ‘ Boom! There it is!’ light bulb going off, ”Noyce later said of his ideas. Instead, he conceived of the integrated circuit in an iterative method he described thus: “[ I thought,] let’s see, if we could do this, we can do that. If we can do that, then we can do this. [It was] a logical sequence. If I hit a wall, I’d back up and then find a path, conceptually, all the way through to the end. [Once you have that path], you can come back and start refining, thinking in little steps that will take you there. Once you get to the point that you can see the top of the mountain, then you know you can get there.” 

[45:48] We were a hard, young, hungry group. Our attitude was ‘We don’t give a damn what money you have to offer, buddy. We’re going to do this ourselves.’

[1:08:55] Noyce was invited to dinner at the home of an entrepreneur whose company the his fund had supported. After the dishes had been cleared and the children sent to bed, Noyce listened as the company founder explained that some day, if the business did well, he would like to move his family into a bigger, nicer house. Noyce looked up at him and said very quietly, “You’ve got a nice family. I screwed up mine. Just stay where you are.” Twenty - five years and a successful company later, the entrepreneur has not moved. 

[1:09:45] His financial success directly benefited the entrepreneurs whose companies he funded, but the stories about Noyce’s success indirectly inspired many more. One entrepreneur put it this way: “Why do we love this dynamic environment? I’ll tell you why. Because we have seen what Steve Jobs, Bob Noyce, Nolan Bushnell [founder of Atari], and many others have done, and we know it can and will happen many times again. ”In other words, if they could do it, why couldn’t he? Such rationale functioned as a self - fulfilling prophecy in Silicon Valley, propelling the region forward on a self - perpetuating cycle of entrepreneurship and wealth. (This is what I hope Founders does.) 

I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

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