Andy Grove (Gróf András) – Fifty-sixer, business icon has died

My wife was watching the TV-news when she cried out – Andy Grove died! He was 79. He is widely considered as one of the tech pioneers who built California’s Silicon Valley.

I met Andy several times at work, at meetings. I didn’t know him well, he was the legendary CEO of tech giant Intel where I worked as a consultant several decades ago.

Andy Grove - the early days.

Andy Grove – the early days.

Last September, he was the recipient of the Churchill Club award and at the reception Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg praised him in a video message. A frail looking Mr. Grove took to the stage to thank everyone and spoke briefly. Grove was struggling with health issues.

Born in 1936 in Budapest, Mr. Grove’s parents were partners in a dairy business in the village of Bácsalmás, Southern Hungary. His family survived World War II in hiding, his father in a Hungarian army labor battalion. As a child he contracted scarlet fever which caused his partial hearing loss, he always talked very loudly. He grew up on Király utca in a busy lower middle class neighborhood in Pest and went to Madách Gimnázium, a prestigious high school.

In 1954, Mr. Grove enrolled to the Technical University (also my Alma Mater) in Budapest started to study chemistry. In 1956 when the revolution broke out, the 20 year-old headed west.

He ended up in New York where in 1958 he married his wife Eva Kastan. He completed his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from City College of New York in 1960; and three years later he earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Mr. Grove got a job at Fairchild Semiconductor as a researcher, and in 1968 he joined Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore co-founders of Intel also from Fairchild Semiconductor. The rest is history.

Robert Noyce is credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the realization of the first integrated circuit (or microchip) which fueled the personal computer revolution and gave Silicon Valley its name. Noyce died in 1990, but Kilby received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000.

Grove, Noyce and Moore with the microprocessor model.

Grove, Noyce and Moore with the microprocessor model.

Mr. Grove was an extremely hard driving manager who built an unusual company. He created a high-tech culture which was not forgiving and sometimes ruthless. Intel hired high driving, creative and talented people who worked literally day and night in an intellectually challenging environment. Intel was a very exciting place when I was there, almost toxic. His book, Only the Paranoid Survive describes how he led Intel’s ever changing technological environment.

Time Magazine Man of the Year 1997.

Time Magazine Man of the Year 1997.

He also wrote a best-seller autobiography entitled Swimming Across. One of his biographers felt that Mr. Grove’s experience growing up in Hungary became a foundation for the “Intel way.” What Hungary was, Intel was not. Intel’s culture emphasized knowledge over power, common sense, and respect for ideas.

The young Bill Gates of Microsoft with Andy Grove.

The young Bill Gates of Microsoft with Andy Grove.

Intel had a small group of Hungarians working there, among them Leslie L. Vadász his close friend. But Mr. Grove had no contacts with the Hungarian-American organizations and he avoided Hungarian language media.

This year, on the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, we should give special honor to the most successful 56-er, the man who changed the history of computing and built Silicon Valley – Andy Grove

(Click here to see Andy Grove’s last public appearance last year and praises from tech leaders)

György Lázár

4 Comments

  1. That man was fantastic, and now one atom of covering layer in semiconductors. He made the microprocessor small and Intel a great company.
    RIP.

  2. András B. Göllner says:

    Thanks for this post György Lázár. If only one could follow his wise counsel and avoid Hungarian public affairs and politics.

  3. Gollner you hit the nail on the head again!!!!!!!!!

  4. András B. Göllner says:

    Thanks Busch – I aim to please 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *