How Nvidia came to rule AI


Lauren Good: Let's go back about 10 years. When you thought of Nvidia, what did you think of?

Michael Calore: I think about the company's big CES press conferences talking about things like Tegra supercomputing chips and these big events that usually just serve word soup.

Lauren Good: It is very accurate. Can you guess what Nvidia's stock price was at that time?

Michael Calore: I do not know.

Lauren Good: Are You Ready for This?

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Good: It was between $3 and $5.

Michael Calore: what now?

Lauren Good: It is hovering around $800.

Michael Calore: Oh my god. to stop.

Lauren Good: Mm-hmm. seriously.

Michael Calore: Well, we don't have technical stock here, it's very sad for us. But what happened to Nvidia?

Lauren Good: Basically, Nvidia started taking over the computing world.

Michael Calore: Well, we need to talk about why.

Lauren Good: We really do that. Let's do it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Lauren Good: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: And I'm Michael Calore. I'm WIRED's director of consumer technology and culture.

Lauren Good: This week we're joined by WIRED senior writer Will Knight, who joins us from Cambridge, Massachusetts. He's on Zoom and has taken his eyes off the latest AI research paper to prank us on Gadget Lab. Hello, Will.

Will Knight: hello.

Lauren Good: Thank you for being here.

Will Knight: Thanks for having me.

Lauren Good: Ok. We're brought by Will, because today we're talking about the meteoric rise of Nvidia, the company that started selling graphics chips for video games on PCs in the 1990s. This is oversimplifying it a bit, but basically from the early days, Nvidia has bet on accelerated computing versus general purpose computing. They created custom chips that turbocharged the functions of personal computers. But as Mike and I were talking about, today's Nvidia is not your Gen X graphics chips maker. Its co-founder and chief executive, Jensen Huang, has consistently led the company to the forefront. Right now, Nvidia has the majority of the market share of AI computing chips. Its value is also about 2 trillion dollars.

In recent months I had the chance to sit down with Jensen for a WIRED story. I'm sorry to disappoint you all, but you won't hear those interviews here. You have to read it in WIRED. I can also recommend checking out acquired Podcast for a very, very long, multi-part series on Nvidia that concludes with a conversation with Jensen. But we're here to give you the clearest story possible about how Nvidia got there and what its future holds.

We should probably start with how Nvidia started and probably shouldn't spend too much time on it, but let's talk about that era of the personal computer, its emergence in the '90s, and how we transitioned into It happened, right?