April 24 -- Bring a blanket and some sandwiches. It's time again to watch the greatest battle in high tech.
The history of the digital age is filled with great business feuds: Apple and Microsoft, HP and Tektronix, DEC and Data General, Ellison and Gates, IBM and everybody …
But no feud has been deeper, longer, more expensive, and more bitter than Intel vs. Advanced Micro Devices. Indeed, Intel vs. AMD may be described as THE great American business grudge match, the Hatfields and the McCoys of our time.
And it has all the right juicy parts. Oedipal complexes, sibling rivalries, multigenerational blood-hatred, fame and scandal, government investigations, vast wealth, and millions and millions of dollars dumped into the laps of happy lawyers. All it needs is a couple of ripped bodices (and for all I know, they are there) to make a perfect tabloid cover story.
Best of all, this feud has probably done more to define life in the modern world over the last half-century than any other series of events. We are all the beneficiaries of these three decades of hatred.
Mother Company of Silicon Valley
The story actually predates the founding of Intel and AMD. You probably know the story of Fairchild Semiconductor, the great mother company of modern Silicon Valley. In the late '50s and early '60s, Fairchild was the hottest company on the planet. Not only did the company build the first integrated circuits, but it may have been the single greatest repository of entrepreneurial talent in history.
Fairchild was led by a charismatic figure, Robert Noyce, who, though he was only in his early 30s, was a father figure to his 20-something employees. With no one was this father-son relationship stronger than between Noyce and a young Fairchild salesman named Jerry Sanders.
Sanders was a self-made man, a wild kid from a rough past who had come to California to become a movie star. Instead, he became a chip salesman, probably the best ever, living out his fantasy by living beyond his means in the Hollywood hills. Sanders was cocky, outrageous, and, some say, the cleverest man in a company filled with geniuses.
In Noyce, the troubled Sanders found the father he never had. And in turn, Noyce protected the young man from the many scandals and rumors and complaints that followed in his brilliant wake.