IEEE

April 1st meeting: “Silicon Valley” Semiconductor Industry from 1957-1975

Time & Date:  6pm-8:30pm  April 1, 2015
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Venue:   Key Point Credit Union
2805 Bowers Ave (just off Central Expressway)
Santa Clara, CA 95051

Park in lot adjacent to building  on Bowers Ave.
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Panelists and their company/university affiliations from 1959 (or later)-1975:

  • Bernie Marren: Fairchild, Western Micro Technology, AMI, etc
  • Ted Hoff, Jr:  Stanford University (Researcher), Intel
  • Ed Pausa, Fairchild, National Semiconductor
  • David Laws:  Fairchild,  Litronix (LEDs), AMD

Moderator:  Alan J. Weissberger [Chair of IEEE SV Tech History Committee]:  Fairchild Systems Technology,  National Semiconductor, Signetics (9/76-to-9/79)
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Abstract:

What was the semiconductor industry like in greater Santa Clara County- “the Valley of Hearts Delight”- before the term “Silicon Valley” was coined?   Most of us know that it was Fairchild Semiconductor that started the activity after it’s founders left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory.

We start our semiconductor journey in 1957,when the “traitorous eight” left Shockley Labs to start Fairchild Semiconductor. How did that happen and what was Bob Noyce’s role? What other semiconductor companies existed in Santa Clara Valley in the late ’50s and what became of them?

In 1959, the integrated circuit (IC) was co-invented separately by Bob Noyce (Fairchild) and Jack Kilby (TI).  What types of discrete components were being sold here from 1957-1962, before the IC was commercially available?  What were their applications (e.g. UHF tuners for TVs)?   Our panelists will address that issue and the general state of the electronics/semiconductor industry before the IC was commercially available (1961-1962).

Did you know that the guy who was hired by Bob Noyce at Fairchild to train engineers on a secret product (the IC) wasn’t even told what it was until it became commercially available two years later?  Bernie Marren will tell that intriguing story, which will be followed by many others.  The panel will address three distinct time periods:

  • 1957-1962   Discrete component (pre-IC) era: transistors, diodes, etc
  • 1962-1968   IC era: digital logic, SSI & MSI, logic families converge to TTL, etc
  • 1968-1975   LSI era:  memories/shift registers, custom LSI, LED displays, consumer electronics, microprocessor applications

Our seasoned semiconductor industry veterans will tell what it was like to work at various Silicon Valley semiconductor companies in the early to mid 1970’s (AMI, National Semiconductor, AMD, Litronix, Intel, etc).  They will share stories about some of the all time great semiconductor icons- like Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, Charlie Spork, Jerry Sanders, Bob Widlar, Pierre Lamond, and others.

About the Panelists:

Bernie Marren was working on fuses for the Polaris missile at AVCO, before Bob Noyce hired him to work at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1960 to train sales engineers on a secret, undisclosed product (it’s a terrific story).  From 1972 to 1976, Bernie served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of American Microsystems, Inc. (AMI).  He founded and was the first President of SIA. and Western Microtechnology Inc.  (President and CEO from 1977 to 1994).

Marcian “Ted” Hoff, Jr. will describe the semiconductor and electronics courses he took as a PhD student at Stanford along with the electronics design contract work he did as a Post Doc from 1962-1968 before he joined Intel as employee #12.   He will also review selected semiconductor companies that were doing business here and provide an Intel competitors perspective on many of them. Finally, Ted will set the record straight on the main applications of microprocessors from 1971-1975 (and for years later).

Ed Pausa will recount the early days at both Fairchild and National Semiconductor where he rose to be Vice President International Manufacturing and Services from 1973-1990.   During his 45 years in the semiconductor industry Ed directed 33 plants and subsidiary companies in 18 foreign countries  and 11 plants in six US states.

David Laws began his Silicon Valley career at Fairchild in Mountain View in 1968. He later served at LED pioneer Litronix, at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) for 12 years where his last role was Vice President Business development, and at Altera where he was Vice President of Marketing.  He is currently Semiconductor Curator at the Computer History Museum.  David will provide an insiders view of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and its larger than life founder- Jerry Sanders.  He will also engage in dialog with the other panelists about Fairchild’s role in creating so many semiconductor companies in Silicon Valley.

Note that three of our four panelists and the moderator all worked at Fairchild at some point in time.

About the Moderator:

From 1968 to early 1970, moderator Alan J Weissberger worked on real time, minicomputer controlled testing of ICs made by Raytheon Semiconductor in Mt View, CA.  He was co-responsible for a CPU design at Fairchild Systems Technology in 1970 and later worked as a full time employee of National Semiconductor (1973-1976) and Signetics (1976-1979) in the microprocessor/COPs division of those companies.  Alan is the founder and chairman of the IEEE Silicon Valley Tech History committee and a four decade + volunteer for IEEE.

References:

The Rise of Silicon Valley: From Shockley Labs to Fairchild Semiconductor

Who Coined the Term Silicon Valley?

Interview with Bernie Marren by Rob Walker

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Time-line (for all our meetings):

6pm-6:30pm:   Networking and light dinner/non-alcoholic drinks ($5 donation requested)
6:30pm-6:35pm:  Opening Remarks & Introductions
6:35pm-8pm:  Panel Discussion
8pm-8:15pm:  Audience Q & A
8:15pm:  Appreciation & Adjournment; informal chit-chat with panelists
8:30pm:  Everyone must be out of the auditorium
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REGISTRATION REQUIRED: Click here to register

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Invitation to ask a question or comment: If you’d like to submit a question or issue to discuss during the panel, please send email to: alan.weissberger@ieee.org  OR leave a comment in the box below this post.  There will be ~15 minutes for audience Q&A at the end of our panel discussion.

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Comments from David Laws:

  • We don’t know when the term “Silicon Valley” was “coined.” It appeared in print for the first time (as far as we know) on January 11, 1971 Electronic News article written by Don Heffler.
  • Silicon activity in the Valley began not at Fairchild in 1959 but at Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, 391 San Antonio Road early in 1956.  [Note that this panel session doesn’t cover that earlier time period]
  • Many people built “integrated circuits” before Kilby and Noyce. They include Hawick (RCA 1953), Dill (IBM 1954), D’Asaro (Bell 1954), and Wallmark (RCA 1957). Kilby’s contribution (1958) was to show that it made sense to build resistors out of semiconductor material. Noyce described the concept of using Jean Hoerni’s planar process to build and manufacture an IC in January 1959 and Jay Last’s team built the first working unit on May 11, 1960.

SSI Commercial* Digital Logic Families with Commercial Introduction Dates:

  • Fairchild Micrologic (DCTL) – March 1961
  • TI Series 51 (DCTL) – October 1961
  • Ferranti Micro-NOR (DTL) – 1962
  • Motorola MECL 1 (ECL) – 1962
  • Signetics SE100 (DTL) – 1962
  • Fairchild 900 Series (RTL) – 1963
  • Sylvania SUHL (TTL) – 1963
  • Westinghouse 200 Series (DTL) – 1963
  • Fairchild 930 Series (DTL) – 1964
  • TI Series 53 (DTL) – 1964
  • TI Series 54 (TTL) – 1964
  • Sylvania SUHL II (TTL) – 1965
  • TI Series 70 (ECL) – 1965 (?)
  • Fairchild (CTL) – 1966
  • Motorola MECL II (ECL) – 1966
  • TI Series 74 (TTL) – 1966
  • Motorola MECL III (ECL) – 1968
  • RCA CD4000 (CMOS) – 1968
  • Motorola 10K (ECL) – 1971
  • TI Series 74S (Schottky TTL) – 1971
  • Fairchild 100K (ECL) – 1973 (?)
  • TI Series 74LS (Low-power Schottky TTL) – 1974 (?)
  • Fairchild 74F (Isoplanar TTL) – 1978

* Numerous custom SSI logic families (CML, DTL, ECL, TTL) were developed by mainframe computer manufacturers, including CDC, Honeywell, IBM, NCR, RCA, SDS, and Univac.

Sources:

http://www.vintchip.com/FLATPACK/TEXASINSTRUMENTS.html

http://www.computerhistory.org/semiconductor/timeline/1965-Custom.html

http://www.computerhistory.org/semiconductor/timeline/1963-TTL.html

http://www.computerhistory.org/semiconductor/timeline/1962-Apollo.html

http://www.computerhistory.org/semiconductor/timeline/1963-CMOS.html

http://www.computerhistory.org/semiconductor/timeline/1969-Schottky.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emitter-coupled_logic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7400_series

http://www.shmj.or.jp/english/integredcircuits/ic60s.html

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Comments from Ted Hoff, PhD:

1. Patent filings:

  • Kilby filed 2/8/1959–issued 6/23/1964
  • Hoerni filed 5/1/1959–issued 3/20/1962
  • Noyce filed 7/30/1959–issued 4/25/1961

2. Importance of planar transistor (Hoerni):

The planar transistor laid the foundation for the integrated circuit, but also the methods used to create the transistors led to gradients of impurities within critical areas of the transistor.  Those gradients tended to speed up the movement of the holes and electrons which in turn made faster devices–with many more applications.

3.  Experience designing with transistors and  integrated circuits (ICs):

At Stanford, we used quite a few 2N706 transistors in logic circuits—in bread boarding ways to realizing adaptive systems, and forinterfacing to our computers.  We had a bank of filters for processing speech and a TV camera for computer input. We also used germanium transistors for some computer interface circuits.

I didn’t really begin to use ICs until after joining Intel in 1968.  Prices were falling and performance improving.  TTL seemed to be the best choice based on ease of use, noise margins, etc.  With the availability of MSI, seemingly more available in TTL than other families, TTL really became the prefered way to make digital logic systems–at least until the microprocessor became available in late 1971.

4.  Semiconductor Memory competitors for Intel:

AMS was founded about the same time as Intel (July 1968), also to develop semiconductor memory.  Back East there was Cogar.  Some of the earliest competition seemed to be from MOSTEK in Dallas, Texas.

5.  History & Importance of Semiconductor Memories:

There was work going on in smaller memory chips, such as bipolar RAMs used to implement arrays of registers in a computer CPU.  Intel had a design specification from Honeywell that led to our 3101–a 16×4 SRAM.  In traveling with Intel sales and marketing people, I often heard customers express appreciation for the support that Intel provided–even if they did not think our IC memory chip was the best, they used it because they felt we would be there to help if they ran into a problem.

Shift registers were another area of interest.  Some companies required customers for shift registers to buy their logic circuits, e.g. TTL, from them to get shift register deliveries.  Intel, was not providing TTL, but got quite a lot of business in shift registers.

6.  Semiconductor memories driving Moore’s Law:

Memories were seen as a driving force in the implementation of Moore’s law, because their large production volumes helped debug the underlying semiconductor production processes, thus improving yields and implementing Gordon Moore’s projections.

7.  Intel Memory Systems:

Intel began its own memory systems development activity, building big box systems to be used with mainframe computers.

8.  Importance of static RAMs for microprocessor applications:

Once the microprocessor gained market traction, the static RAM products became more important than DRAMs.  Quite a few of the earlier computer hobbyist products made use of static RAMs, because they avoided the refresh circuitry (CAS, RAS, etc) needed when using DRAMs

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4 Responses to “April 1st meeting: “Silicon Valley” Semiconductor Industry from 1957-1975”

  1. Robert Reavis says:

    Who were the other players during this time? What was IBM and HP doing?

    • You will have to come to the April 1st panel to learn who the other Silicon Valley semiconductor players were during the referenced time period= 1959-1979. IBM and HP are not and were not semiconductor companies, even though IBM made it’s own chips in New York.

  2. Steve Buchholz says:

    Hewlett-Packard may not have sold ICs to the public, but they were indeed a semiconductor company in the mid ’70s. I have a friend who worked in the HP fab back in those days.

    Interesting trivia … I had my first job out of school back in 1978 at Versatec (a Xerox company), which used to be located at 2805 Bowers Ave …

  3. We are not addressing “captive semiconductor” production, but rather the “merchant market.” IBM and AT&T/Western Electic made more semiconductors in 1 year than HP made in its entire history! But they were used for internal consumption, until AT&T Micro Electronics started to sell ICs on merchant market in late 1970s.

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