Dec 29, 2013

Analog and Molecular Science

The term “molecular science” conjures up many images but very few that are related to analog semiconductor circuits. The term is most closely connected to nanotechnology in the electronics field. In the 1980s, Forrest Carter promoted the idea of a single-molecule logic gate. Carter was a chemist from Caltech, studying there in the days of Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman. Carter joined Westinghouse in 1957 and then moved to the Naval Research Laboratory in 1964. Decades later at NRL, he would use the term “molecular electronics” – a term that was in use at Westinghouse during his time there but for something somewhat different.

To begin to trace our analog footsteps, we need to go back to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and World War II. In 1936, a German physicist name Arthur von Hippel joined the MIT electrical engineering faculty and worked during World War II as Director of MIT’s Laboratory of Insulation Research. He articulated a vision of highly integrated circuits:

Instead of taking prefabricated materials and trying to devise engineering applications consistent with their macroscopic properties, one builds materials from their atoms and molecules for the purpose at hand ... . He can play chess with elementary particles according to prescribed rules until new engineering solutions become apparent.
In 1956, von Hippel held a 10-day summer course on molecular engineering at MIT; and in 1959 he published a textbook entitled Molecular Science and Molecular Engineering, co-authored with numerous researchers from military and corporate laboratories – including the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) and Westinghouse.

The concept that evolved was in contrast to the typical semiconductor processing – pulling a single crystal ingot, slicing off a wafer and processing up. Instead, the idea was to ‘pull a pnp or npn crystal strip directly from the melt’, or to achieve the desired characteristics by ‘diffusing suitable impurities upon the newly formed dendrite surfaces’. Westinghouse had started development in this area but in early 1957 the Air Force was resistant. Then came Sputnik in October of 1957. Now the Air Force was interested and the money was there. Soon “molecular science” and “molecular electronics” were in the press and technical papers.

From Popular Electronics, April 1960:
A dendritic ribbon to which tiny multiple-function systems have been automatically attached is [?]. Here a series of multivibrators has been created directly on the dendrite. The individual circuits need only be clipped apart and leads attached. Soon, complete amplifier circuits will be produced the same way. The dendrite ribbon will be snipped into different lengths to give amplifiers of different gains - the longer the strip, the greater the amplification!
Eventually, engineers hope to "grow" complex electronic equipment - complete receivers, for example - automatically and continuously from a pool of semiconductor material. These receivers are still far in the future, but they would be unbelievably cheap and trouble - free by today's standards. Because of the low power consumption of molecular electronic function blocks, a single battery would last for years.
Molecular electronic devices will open up exciting new fields with their combination of high performance, small size, and low cost. For example, the wrist radio - a la Dick Tracy - will become common-place. The personal telephone - a tiny gadget to strap on your wrist or carry in your pocket - will become possible. With it, you will be able to call anybody in the world who is similarly equipped.
A flat-screen TV set that hangs on your wall like a picture will become a reality. Rapid advances in electroluminescence have already come close to making practical a screen only a fraction of an inch thick. Molecular electronics will make it possible to pack the rest of the TV circuitry into a hollow corner of the frame!

In the early days of the Noyce and Kilby versions of integrated circuits, “molecular electronics” was often used interchangeably. With this as a back-drop, a tiny semiconductor start-up changed its name from Electro Radiation, Inc to Molecular Science Corporation. They were early pioneers in the custom logic business with RTL, DTL and DTL-TTL blocks that could be configured into larger functions (an ASIC). The company was founded by ex-Fairchild processing expert James Nall.

Nall hadn’t been at Fairchild very long. In 1957, he and Jay Lathrop patented photolithographic techniques while at the U.S. Army’s Diamond Ordnance Fuse Laboratories. In 1959 Lathrop joined Texas Instruments, working for Jack Kilby, and Jay Last hired Nall at Fairchild Semiconductor. But by 1962 he had moved on. In 1963 they shortened the name to Molectro Corporation.

For reasons I don’t understand, Molectro attracted two more Fairchild defectors in 1965 – Bob Widlar and Dave Talbert. Likely it was due to the precision processing that was developed under Nall’s guidance. Talbert developed an EPI reactor and soon Widlar was developing what would become the LM100 – the first linear voltage regulator. Imagine what could have been!

But Molectro was in horrible financial shape and soon entered Chapter XI. In 1966, Peter Sprague brought National Semiconductor in from Danbury, Connecticut, to rescue them, financially. Molectro at the time had something like 30 employees and occupied a facility on San Ysidro Way in Santa Clara, CA. National had about 600 employees in Danbury and more importantly, was profitable. Peter Sprague brought in Charlie Sporck (and Fred Bialek, Pierre Lamond, Floyd Kvamme and Roger Smullen) from Fairchild to take over management of National. Charlie promptly fired half of the Danbury employees and effectively moved “National” to the Molectro site as its new headquarters. From an analog perspective, Widlar brought out the LM100 and National became and analog powerhouse.

National acquired Widlar and Talbert when it took over Molectro, formerly Molecular Science Corp – named for a term that once meant something quite different than it does today.

2. The Long History of Molecular Electronics: Microelectronics Origins of Nanotechnology, Hyungsub Choi and Cyrus C.M. Mody, 2009, 
3. History of Semiconductor Engineering, Bo Lojek
4. Spinoff, Charlie Sporck with Richard Molay, 2001

Dec 27, 2013

Federal Telegraph, the Birthplace of Silicon Valley

A rapid scan of historical highlights might lead a reader to this view of events:

  1. Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
  2. Thomas Edison invents the light bulb, and later notices the “Edison Effect” when you insert an extra element into the bulb.
  3. Lee De Forest takes that idea and invents the triode vacuum tube, which he called the Audion.
  4. Silicon Valley was started in Dave Packard’s garage.
  5. Shockley invents the transistor at Bell Labs, starts his own company in Silicon Valley until the “traitorous eight” defect and start Fairchild.

A very digital (sampled) view of history. But this is Analog Footsteps, so we take an analog view of history – in the sense of a continuum where something interesting might have happened right before or right after these iconic events. That’s why I want to talk about Federal Telegraph. I touched briefly on Western Electric’s role in #1, above. Historians question #2 since De Forest couldn’t even explain how it worked – but at one point he worked for Federal Telegraph! Federal Telegraph was a company that challenges #4. I agree with most of #5, except the first part.

Until the invention of the telephone, the telegraph was the main form of long-range, electrical communication. But suddenly, it was conceivable to skip the manual coding and decoding and hear the voice of someone hundreds of miles away. We just needed the technology. Due to their size, complexity and cost, alternator-transmitters were mostly employed for long-range radiotelegraphy, and rarely used for audio transmissions. But another developing continuous-wave technology also showed promise -- the arc-transmitter, which had been perfected beginning in 1902 by Valdemar Poulsen of Denmark. When I learned this, I was a bit surprised because I expected it to have been invented on the East Coast of the United States. Part I’m part Danish, so this makes me happy.

Poulsen presented a paper on the topic in Saint Louis in 1904. One person attending the conference was Lee De Forest, who would spend many years trying to develop arc-transmitters for audio transmissions. Depending on what you read, De Forest was either a creative genius with bad luck in business or an outright conman. Over and over, he built companies and great fortunes only to lose them and his reputation by over-promising and under-delivering (and possibly taking credit for things he did not invent or even understand). In 1911, De Forest was able to temporarily find employment at the one company that actually was operating a successful arc-transmitter radiotelegraph service, the Federal Telegraph Company.

Backing up a bit for a fascinating footnote in history, in 1903 a 15 year old boy, Francis J. McCarty, demonstrated one of the first audio radio transmissions using his own invention. This was in San Francisco. Yes, he was only 15 years old. Tragically, he was killed in a buggy accident two weeks before his 18th birthday. Cyril F. Elwell was hired by local businessmen to evaluate the commercial potential of the McCarty patents. Elwell was an Australian, a recent graduate of Stanford University and teaching there at the time. He got the system to work for a distance of over one mile but concluded that it was not practical.
Elwell and two associates (but not De Forest) in the early days
Instead, Elwell convinced backers to buy the patent rights for Poulsen’s arc transmitter. He founded the Poulsen Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company (a California company), then later it reemerged in 1911, as Federal Telegraph Company (an Arizona company for more favorable tax reasons, much like today’s “Delaware companies”), with Elwell as president. Along the way, it was briefly named Wireless Development Company.

Federal Telegraph was not alone. All across the country and also throughout Europe, companies were being founded in the telegraph industry. Some were just transmitters. Some, like Federal Telegraph, owned stations and developed new equipment. It wasn’t long before consolidation occurred. Federal Telegraph was successful and gradually acquired other companies on the west coast. With stations in San Francisco and development being done in Palo Alto with connections to Stanford University, it might rightly claim to be the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
WKZO was the station I grew up with in Kalamazoo, MI

But history taught us that Packard’s garage was the birthplace. Didn’t Fred Terman create an atmosphere at Stanford University which led to the start of H-P and that whole Silicon Valley thing? Yes, Terman was inspired by his time at MIT to foster relations between the University and local industry. Terman’s early interest in radio was due to the proximity of Federal Telegraph – he built a crystal receiver in 1913 (age 14). And Bill Hewlett agreed, "Fred Terman didn't start Silicon Valley; the beginning of Silicon Valley was a supernova." He explained that Lee de Forest, an electronics pioneer in the Palo Alto area, and his work were the supernova. I trust Bill. Although, De Forest was only a visitor in the Palo Alto area; regardless, the work done at Federal Telegraph was pioneering.

De Forest moved to California and worked for Federal Telegraph Company at Palo Alto. According to Rogers and Larsen, in 1912 "De Forest and two fellow researchers for the Federal Telegraph Company…” were able to amplify a housefly's footsteps 120 times. This event was the first time that a vacuum tube had amplified a signal. Also Rogers and Larsen add that, "Lee de Forest had a Stanford University connection; his work was partly financed by Stanford officials and faculty." At Federal Telegraph, De Forest finally made his Audion tube perform as an amplifier and sold it to the telephone company for $50,000. By late 1916, he was gone again – back on the east coast seeking greater fortune. As much as I trust Bill, I suspect that Federal Telegraph’s Stanford-trained engineers contributed more than history recorded. But that’s my own opinion.

So why don’t most people know about Federal Telegraph? What happened to it? Well, history records that in 1917, Federal Telegraph was the junior partner with American Marconi in forming the Pan-American Wireless Telegraph and Telephone Company. In 1927, it was acquired by MacKay which was then acquired by ITT. So it didn’t die, but it didn’t live. In historical terms, it basically disappeared.


1. William Hewlett's quote, Carolyn Tajnai, 1995, author of "Fred Terman, The Father of Silicon Valley"


3. Moodys Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities (Volume 2, Part 2), 1922

4. The Examiner, San Francisco, August 30, 1908

5. United States Early Radio History, Thomas H. White,

Dec 23, 2013

Einstein's Amplifier

In 1905, Albert Einstein published the groundbreaking paper with the simple relationship: “If a body emits the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass decreases by L/V2.” That rearranges to L = mV2. Eventually we came to call energy E instead of L and the particular velocity of light, V, we now call c. E = mc2. In addition to his full-time job as a patent clerk, he cranked out six more papers in 1906 and ten more in 1907. And in his spare time in 1907, he developed an amplifier with his friends, Conrad and Paul Habicht.

The goal was to develop an instrument to study small electrical fluctuations. He thought it might be useful for experiments with his predictions concerning the equivalence of mass and energy. The concept for the amplifier was electro-mechanical. Two strips of metal acting as capacitor plates would move by each other, one inducing an opposite charge on the other. A series of strips would induce the charge ten times and then transfer to another disc. The process would be repeated until the miniscule charge (realistically, half a millivolt) was large enough to be measurable. Not an amplifier as we know it today, but an electrostatic potential multiplier.

Prototypes were built, tested and refined – mostly with Einstein’s encouragement but not too much involvement. It was called the little machine, Maschinchen. “I am astounded at the lightning speed with which you built the Maschinchen,” Einstein wrote in a letter to the Habichts. By November of 1908 it worked acceptably well. In December of 1911 it was demonstrated at the Berlin Physical Society. Your recollection is correct; the electrostatic potential multiplier was not successful. Paul Habicht built and sold a few – you can see one in the Physical Institute of the University of Tübingen.

It’s quite a stretch to say that Einstein could have been an analog engineer. He wasn’t a builder; he didn’t physically take things apart to see how they worked. He was a much better theorist. His experiments were thought experiments. But for a time, he put some thought towards engineering. The Habichts were the engineers in this story. And with persistence, they made it work. But the market went with a better solution.


“Einstein, His Life and Universe”, Walter Isaacson, 2007

“The Maschinchen”, Hans-Josef Küpper
Illustration: Dr. Torsten Hehl, Tübingen

Dec 15, 2013

Forgotten Spin-Offs

Most who are likely readers of this space already know the big names of the Fairchild family tree. But I came across an account of the story written by Don Hoefler for Electronic News in 1968. A lot had happened in the preceding ten years since the traitorous eight defected from Shockley Labs. I’ll quote a few items that were news to me, but the whole article is worth reading.

Bay Area:

“A little-known event of 1954 might have altered the course of semiconductor history, and made Boston’s Bay Area – not San Francisco’s Bay Area – one of the world’s leading producers.
Well-remembered is the triumphal return of Dr. William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor, to his native Palo Alto in 1955. There with the backing of Beckman Instruments, Inc., he founded Shockley Transistor, which gave rise to the vast Bay Area semiconductor community.

Not so well known is that the year before Shockely was negotiating a similar deal with Raytheon Co. He did join Raytheon as a consultant, but wanted a long-term deal which would guarantee him $1 million over a three-year period. Raytheon was unwilling to make the commitment, and the relationship was terminated after only one month.”
Not Fairchild: 
“The first notable California spin-out which had neither Hughes nor Fairchild antecedents, is Siliconix, Inc., founded in 1962 by Dr. William Hugle and the late Dr. Frances Hugle, from Westinghouse, together with Dr. Richard Lee and Arthur Evans from Texas Instruments. The Hugles left two years later to form Stewart-Warner Microcircuits, Inc.”
Transistor Stories: 
“David Bakalar left Bell Laboratories to form Transitron Electronic Corp. in 1952, which gave rise to four spin-outs of its own. James Hangstefer and upwards of a dozen senior technical men departed in 1960 to form Solid State Products. Crystalonics, now also a part of Teledyne, was formed around a Transitron nucleus headed by W. Frustager. John Royan left in 1957 to form American Power Devices, and Claus Lasch left in May of this year (1968) to form an Italian thyristor company under the sponsorship of Ing. Dino Olivetti.

William Pietenpol left Bell Labs in 1953 to establish a transistor facility at Sylvania Electric Products, where a diode capability already existed. From the Sylvania base, Richard Seed left in 1958 to form Semicon Inc., and later, in 1963, Seed Electronics. Earlier, in 1954, Clair Thornton had left Sylvania to provide the technology required to put Philco Corp. into the business.

General Transistor Corp. was formed in 1954 by Herman Fialkov and a group from Radio Receptor Corp., which had been in the selenium rectifier business since the 1940s. In 1957 a group left GTC, along with some key personnel from RCA, to form Silicon Transistor Corp. General Transistor was merged into General Instrument Corp. in 1960.”
“Motorola Semiconductor was a minor laboratory effort until it hired Dr. C. Lester Hogan away from the faculty of Harvard University in 1957, the same year Fairchild was formed. Dr. Hogan recruited extensively to build engineering, manufacturing and marketing staff required to make Motorola a factor in the business. Many key people came in from General Electric, with others from Bell Labs, IBM, CBS and TI.

Almost immediately, Motorola began to suffer defections of its own, when a group left in 1957 to form U. S. Semcor, which in turn spun out the short-lived American Micro Devices in 1960.

Donald C. Dickson, Jr. left Motorola in 1960 to form the successful Dickson Electronics. Steven Berck and others left Dickson in 1965 to form General Semiconductor Inc.”
These companies read like a “who’s who” list of “who are they?” Some have no direct connection to Fairchild or Bell Labs. And the rapid-fire spin-off occurred before, during and after the Fairchild spin-off frenzy that always seemed like a unique story. Not only is the story not unique in the semiconductor industry, it is not unique in most industries. But that’s another story.

“Semiconductor Family Tree”, Don C. Hoefler, Electronic News, July 8, 1968 

Dec 11, 2013

Bob Noyce, meet Bob Widlar.

The µA702 is credited as being the first true integrated circuit op amp.  It was developed in secrecy by Bob Widlar and Dave Talbert.  Word got out and eventually Fairchild management decided to support it.  Aware of Texas Instruments' success in analog circuits for the Minuteman II missile program, Bob Noyce wanted to pursue that market.

According to Bo Lojek, Bob Noyce and Tom Bay came to see Widlar about it in May, 1964.  Noyce and Bay, however, had never met Widlar.  Of course, Widlar was aware of who they were.  Bay said Fairchild was going to start a marketing campaign for the part and needed a few things from him.  Widlar said, "what do you mean?"  "We are going to announce the µA702 and we are going to sell it," replied Bay.  Widlar knew it had yield issues and he wasn't done yet.  But this was top management, and he had just met them.  "Fuck You!" Widlar said.

"You are not going to sell these things because you do not know how to sell them.  You guys do not know anything about this part.  Nobody inside this company knows anything about it.  If I give this to you, you will just screw up my work."

Eventually, he relented and the rest is history.

History of Semiconductor Engineering, Bo Lojek

Photo, and Paul Rako's blog post.

Nov 30, 2013

On the Hiring of Bob Widlar

This story is so beautifully written that I am basically just quoting it. I’ve deleted a few things but nothing of substance. It was submitted by Joe Malone, the personnel manager at Fairchild in the early days.

I believe the year was 1964. It seems to me it was springtime and either a Thursday or Friday. On this particular morning, I was visited in my office on Whisman Road very early (and unexpectedly) by Bob Graham who was Fairchild's Product Marketing Manager. Bob, along with Don Valentine the National Sales Manager, reported to the Marketing Director, Tom Bay. Bob had in tow a scruffy, curly haired little fellow with impish eyes that simultaneously smiled and bored holes in you. He was clearly self-confident bordering on arrogant, but outgoing and friendly at the same time. He was introduced to me as Bob Widlar a young design engineer currently working at Ball Brothers Research in Boulder, Colorado. I was impressed that Graham had the "stones" to recruit him out of a customer's house. In any event it was clear that Graham "owned" him now and felt responsible for his welfare at least for the day. This was a special guy.
Graham provided me with a courtesy introduction and informed me that he had arranged for Widlar to spend the day with John Hulme, Murray Siegel, Maurice O'Shea and Vic Grinich one of the company's founders who, I believe, was running the Applications Engineering group at that time. He let me know that Hulme, who was the Manager of Integrated Circuits Applications, was the targeted hiring supervisor and I was to aid and abet Hulme in any way possible to see that Widlar joined Fairchild. They then disappeared and I saw no signs of them until late in the afternoon. I simply was on standby to assist Hulme.

To add a little color to the story, it appeared that Widlar was on vacation that day and driving a big, heavy, red Pontiac convertible with the top permanently down from Colorado to Mexico. Graham had somehow convinced him to plan his trip such that he could spend a day at Fairchild in Mt. View. Widlar had agreed to eight hours maximum. Graham knew he had a narrow window with which to work and, master-manipulator that he was, made every minute count. We needed to "close the deal" by sundown.

Sometime late in the afternoon, Hulme and Widlar appeared at my door. We put Widlar in my office while Hulme and I huddled in the hallway outside. Hulme announced that he wanted to hire Widlar and (ever the pristine manager) indemnified that he had an appropriately approved personnel requisition somewhere in my department. We discussed the magnitude of the offer briefly. John stated that Widlar was currently earning (gulp!) $9000/yr and he was comfortable offering him $10,000/yr. but - NOT A PENNY MORE! Hulme was not comfortable extending the offer and asked me to close the deal. Widlar was driving to Southern California immediately upon leaving the premises and both Hulme and Graham wanted him "closed" today!

I then joined Widlar in my office and the dancing began. He knew where we were going and decided to enjoy the ride. I poked around in his early life and discovered that his father ran a radio/TV repair shop in the Cleveland, Ohio area. He learned electronics from the ground up at his father's knee. For some reason that I can't recall, he chose to join the Air Force instead of going to college. Somehow he got stationed in Colorado and was able to attend the University of Colorado in parallel with his military service. I believe he finished college with a BSEE in three years (3.9999 GPA) and met his service obligation at the same time. Ball Bros. was his first and only fulltime professional civilian employment.

At some point, I (naively) asked if he had thought to bring along a resume. In response, he casually tossed a copy of his transcript across my desk. Ever the poker player, I studied it carefully and noticed that it showed ALL "A's" except for one lonely "C" - that being in Colorado History. When I inquired about the obvious aberration, he replied that Colorado History was required to graduate. He said the instructor, on the first day of class, asked the class to take out a blank paper and draw an outline of Colorado. Widlar's response to this request was to write on the paper, (sic) "The map is on the wall behind you, you dumb SOB!" He then smilingly admitted that the Professor never seemed to warm up to him and simply gave him a passing grade. My first clue that this was a different dude?

We then moved into the negotiations. He verified what Hulme had already told me about his current yearly salary. I responded that Hulme very much wanted him to join his group and was prepared to offer him an increase to $10K/yr. His reaction was a blank stare. The silence was palpable. It was one of those "whose going to blink first" moments. Finally, he spoke. "I won't come for less than $12K," he said. Now it was my turn to stare while my mind was whirling. Is this guy playing me? (Of course he was.) Do I dare stonewall him and risk the wrath of Bob Graham if I lose him? What to do?

I broke the silence by launching into a totally irrelevant and wandering discourse on Fairchild; John Hulme, what a trusted guy he was; how if he was as good as he thought he was he'd be making $12K in no time; blah, blah, blah. I was pouring out platitudes non-stop. Interestingly, I don't recall any talk of equity or stock options of any kind. I guess not at that level at that time. Anyway, he was entirely cash motivated then. The equity thirst came much later.

Speaking of thirst, it was getting on to 5 o'clock and he interrupted my babbling by asking where the nearest "watering hole" was. I acquainted him with Walker's Wagon Wheel just down Whisman Road at the intersection of Middlefield Road. He abruptly ended our meeting by asking me how long I intended to be in my office. I said "As long as necessary, why?" He then stood up to leave and committed to me that I would get a phone call with his decision "after six beers." (Somehow I sensed that wouldn't be long. I was right!) We parted ways amicably with much the same affable, smiling eyes I had seen that morning.

Roughly, an hour later, my phone rang. Widlar was on a pay phone at "The Wheel." (No cell phones then) He graciously accepted our offer as originally stated; asked me to put it in writing and mail it to his home in Colorado; committed to give notice when he returned from vacation; said, "Adios, Amigo!" and left for south of the border.

I "processed" him out when he left the company with his counterpart, Dave Talbert to join what was then a struggling Molectro in 1965. Molectro was purchased shortly after to establish a West Coast operation for National Semiconductor. Together they were unbeatable either at work or play. Linear products generated a steady (obscene?) gross profit for NSC throughout its history while the other product lines "eked" out marginal results if any at all.

Widlar was an amazing individual! There are more "Widlar" stories around than can possibly be true. But this one is mine and I've obviously carried it around for over 40 years. It's interesting how a single day can remain this clear among all of the cobwebs of other memorable events.

In closing, in case there remains any confusion as to who the hero is in this tale - it's Bob Graham. John Hulme hosted Widlar all day and made the easy decision to offer him a job. I may have "closed' on him but Graham was the key ingredient. He "sourced" Widlar and convinced him to stop by on his way to Mexico. He set up and orchestrated a smooth process that the rest of us simply implemented. He made a major impact on the industry by introducing Bob Widlar into it. This was not his only contribution to the industry but arguably one of his greatest.
Read the rest at: "In the beginning… there was Widlar!" by Joe Malone, August 8, 2007 

Nov 28, 2013

Bob Widlar and the Sheep at National

I started out to write the obligatory sheep story because what blog on analog would be complete without it. There are several versions online. Several start out by correcting the New York Times obituary version which claimed it was a goat. But there are other discrepancies: Did he act alone? Was the sheep stolen or purchased? Was it a prank or a protest against the unkempt landscaping? What happened to the sheep? So here is what I believe to be the definitive Sheep Story with a few bonus stories. But first, a few steps backward.

Bob Widlar started working at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1963. He left Fairchild in 1967 to join Molectro which was quickly acquired by National Semiconductor in 1967. The story happened in late 1970 at National. There was no love lost between Widlar and his vice president, Pierre Lamond. Why? A few reasons. Generally speaking, Widlar was difficult to manage (a tremendous understatement, really) and especially so when he felt his boss knew less than he did. Pierre had ascended rapidly – perhaps too rapidly and earned a bit of the disdain from Widlar.

Lamond was born in France and joined Transitron in 1957. The owners, the Bakalars, put him on the production line. In his third week, he was promoted to the head of production to replace his departing boss, and, in a few more months, he was promoted to device development engineer. He returned to France as his one-year working visa expired, and then by 1959 he was back at Transitron as the head of development. Lamond's second stint at Transitron was a short one. In 1961, Lamond joined Fairchild, working for Gordon Moore. After the loss of Lamond's direct supervisor, he was again promoted to manage device development. In 1967, he was one of four key operations people along with Charlie Sporck, to leave Fairchild and restart National Semiconductor.

As a quick aside, Lamond had previously assembled a team of Fairchild managers in preparation to defect to Plessey. When negotiations with Plessey broke down, Lamond and Sporck followed up on Widlar's and Talbert's suggestion to consider National Semiconductor. Ironic, eh?

By 1970, Widlar had been increasingly playing pranks on Lamond. Widlar’s office was near Lamond’s and there was an intercom speaker in the ceiling right between them. The paging bothered Widlar so he had his brother, Jim who worked in facilities, to disconnect it. Lamond had it reconnected. This escalated until Widlar installed a bomb (M-80 or cherry bomb) in the speaker! Lamond saw him on a chair in the hallway. “What are you doing, Bob?”asked Lamond. Widlar replied, “I am going to blow out these damn speakers.” Lamond replied, “Oh,” and turned and walked back out the door. Widlar lit off the fuse and hopped down.

According to Bob Pease, Widlar really was almost always a soft-spoken person. He didn’t have to yell or shout to get his message across. Lamond, not so much. Widlar created a “hassler” circuit for his office. When a person spoke loudly in Widlar’s office, this circuit would detect the audio and convert it to a very high audio frequency. So if you really hollered, it would make sort of a ringing in your ears.

Lamond was a stickler for being on time. Widlar, not so much. So Widlar came up with a circuit that would steal cycles from the 60Hz wall socket for Lamond’s clock, making it lose a few minutes every day. Again, his brother Jim did the deed, cobbling the circuit into the socket. Lamond bought three new clocks before they tipped him off to the prank.

Widlar would also generate prank purchase orders (PO) to see what would get through the system. Widlar put in a PO for a bale of hay, 20ft of rope, a tire & 20lbs of bananas as a prank (and I think there was something about a monkey also). A few days later he came in to work and found the items and was told the bananas (or the monkey) were on backorder. A fitting segue to the story of the sheep.

In 1970 the semiconductor market was in a bit of a slump. Charlie Sporck was the CEO of National Semiconductor and a great operations man, so he decided to curtail landscaping for a while at the Santa Clara facility. Presumably, Lamond was implicated by Widlar for this as well. December in Northern California means the days are cooler and the rains start to return. So the grass grew tall. Widlar saw this as another opportunity for a prank. (I doubt he cared about the unkempt look of the facilities, especially since Bob had supposedly parked on the grass in the past.)

One morning Widlar and Bob Dobkin drove down to Morgan Hill. His friend, John Weiss had a neighbor, Emmett Slaughter, who owned some sheep. Dobkin says they paid $60 for a sheep; Jim Widlar says they borrowed it. Widlar had a Mercedes-Benz 280 SL convertible with a hardtop. There was a little gap behind the seats, so they wrapped the sheep in a blue tarp and tucked her snuggly in the gap so she couldn’t move.
[Image is not Widlar’s car, but you can see a sheep-sized gap behind the seats.]  You can see Widlar's car in the background in one of the photos below.

They tied the sheep up to a tree in front of National’s headquarters and about 20 minutes later a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News showed up to took photos. Dobkin swears that neither he nor Widlar called the newspaper. It must have been someone else. Contrary to Sporck’s version of the story, Pierre Lamond did not coax the sheep back into Widlar’s car. Widlar and Dobkin collected it at the end of the day. They took it to a local restaurant, By-th-Bucket, and left it with the owner (Mike Garcia). Dobkin says that no one from management really had much of a reaction until the story appeared in the Mercury News. Once they saw it in the paper they were furious – and they started having the lawns mowed again.

This was December 12, 1970. Bob Widlar retired from National Semiconductor on December 21, 1970.


Photo credit for color photos, Fran Hoffart.

Many details from conversations with Jim Widlar.

Many details from conversations with Bob Dobkin.

“What’s All This Widlar Stuff, Anyhow?”, Bob Pease – EDN, first published in the July 25, 1991 issue

“They Would Be Gods”, (, Upside, October 2001

SIDEBAR (why I believe the By-th-Bucket version over the Marchetti’s version): By-Th'-Bucket is still around, but it was called “Buy th’ Bucket then. In those days it was literally a hole-in-the-wall establishment. It was made of cinder block and you collected your food from a glowing window that was, in essence, the only light in the place. You had a choice of wooden picnic tables topped with bowls of salted peanuts or – if you couldn't find a seat – the hood of your car would become your table. Mike Garcia, the original owner, would put large olives in the bottom of your beer, patrons would eat peanuts and throw the shells right onto the floor, which would be there nearly a week later. [source: ] No one would worry about the presence of a sheep – it was probably welcome. Or perhaps it ended up on the menu. No one’s talking.

Per Wikipedia: The San Jose Mercury was founded in 1851 as the San Jose Weekly Visitor, while the San Jose News was founded in 1883. In 1942, the Mercury purchased the News and continued publishing both newspapers, with the Mercury as the morning paper and the News as the evening paper. The story ran in the afternoon paper. Full text, below:

*** San Jose News Sat., Dec. 12, 1970 page 3

Economy Mowing

This is not Mary’s little lamb grown up and following her to work. It is a lawnmower. Bob Widlar, director of advanced circuit development, “borrowed” the sheep for the front lawn of National Semiconductor in Santa Clara to help the firm’s austerity program by cutting mowing expenses. Widlar admitted it is “putting a lot of gardeners out of work,” but notes “at the same time the grass gets cut, it gets fertilized, too.”

Nov 24, 2013

The 10k on Widlar

Bob Widlar arguably started the analog IC industry as we know it. Today, the majority of analog circuits trace their designs to circuits and techniques that he invented. His legendary character may outshine the body of his work. What seems to get little press is how hard he worked. Not only was he a genius, but he probably worked harder than anyone else.

How does one become a genius?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he considers how the “elite” got there. Certainly it takes innate talent, but it also takes a tremendous amount of work. K. Ander’s Ericsson conducted a study of elite musicians and couldn’t find any “naturals” who rose to the top without practicing, nor any “grinds” who worked harder than everyone else but lacked the talent. [1]

“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything,” wrote David Levitin. “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”
Let’s count the 10,000 hours for Bob Widlar.

Bob Widlar was fortunate to be born in 1937, before World War II but on the tail end of the Great Depression. His father, Walter Widlar, was a self-taught radio engineer of German descent, a ham radio hobbyist and an engineer with Bird Electronics in Cleveland. Bob developed an interest in ham radio and all things electronic. Let’s say he would spend a few hours a week with his dad – who, by the way, designed pioneering ultra high frequency transmitters. [3] A few hours a week even before the age of 10, according to his brother, Jim; maybe that totals a few hundred hours. His dad also repaired appliances and by his teens, Bob had a television repair business after school. At the age of 15, he was billed in a local newspaper article as an "electronics designer and experimenter, who repaired radio and TV sets as a sideline." As a teenager, he also played radio pranks on the Cleveland police. [2] An obsessive consumer of technical information, Bob studied the manuals and gained a great understanding of vacuum tube circuits. It’s probably conservative to say, by age 18, that Bob had close to 1,000 hours of practice with circuits.

Walt died when Bob was just 15. Ray Bird, the owner of Bird Electronics and a family friend, helped out in many ways – including giving Bob a job. [4] I don’t know exactly how long he worked at Bird or what he did but it probably involved circuits. In 1958, Bob joined the Air Force at Fort Lawry in Colorado. He was in the 3424th Instructor Squadron. [5] Simultaneously, he attended the University of Colorado in Boulder (C.U.). While you might think the Air Force would not immerse Bob in electronics, remember that his was an Instructor Squadron. He passed the electronics exam without even taking any classes – a tribute to the self-study as a teenager and time spent with his dad. So they made him the instructor and he flunked everyone in the class. He felt the instruction manual was inadequate and was the reason that none of the students understood the basics. He wrote the Air Force’s six volume training manual in little over a year. Spending many hours in libraries, Bob had full access to the Bell Labs reports on semiconductor technology. He studied incredibly hard, but generally alone. While he rarely attended his classes at C.U., he nonetheless got perfect grades (except for one lone C in Colorado History). Knowing that Bob would devour books and would stay up for several days when engrossed in a topic, it’s easy to think that Bob by now had accumulated about 8,000 hours.

In 1961 he graduated and left the military, joining Ball Brothers Research Corporation (which later became Ball Aerospace). So, by 1962 he had most likely reached the 10,000 hour milestone – age 25.

But accumulating 10,000 hours and having immense talent is not enough, according to Gladwell. You have to achieve it before anyone else, check. Timing also plays a big part. Check. There could not have been a better point in time for the semiconductor industry. In 1957, eight scientists started a little semiconductor company called Fairchild. Also armed with technology originated at Bell Labs, Fairchild was quickly becoming the driving force in the nascent semiconductor industry. First they made transistors and Bob Widlar, as a customer, knew them inside and out. Bob was already a stand-out engineer at Ball Brothers when Jerry Sanders came to call (yes the founder of Advanced Micro Devices, but then a hot-shot salesman for Fairchild). So Sanders lured Widlar over to Fairchild.

Widlar was incredibly smart. He accumulated over 10,000 hours of circuit “practice” by the age of 25. He joined a start-up company full of brilliant engineers and scientists, experimenting freely on new technology. Even within this highly-charged environment, Widlar, with his cohort Dave Talbert, worked secretly on off-hours without management’s knowledge to create the first commercial operational amplifier. Again, rarely sleeping since he was so engrossed in the work. As the story goes, Fairchild introduced the µA702 even though Widlar didn’t think it was ready. It was very popular but it had aspects that made it difficult to work with. So Bob locked himself in a room for 170 hours and reappeared with the legendary 709 op amp as a result. [6] Widlar was known to have extremely meticulous lab books. These were still the days of slide rules, and his books showed the exhaustive math as he worked out the many problems. In addition to design, he became proficient in layout, fabrication, test and the writing of data sheets. Remember, the µA702 was introduced in October of 1964 – one year after he joined Fairchild. [7]  The amount of work done by Widlar and Talbert in that amount of time is unimaginable today.

He was more than a genius.


[1] “Outliers, the Story of Success”, Malcolm Gladwell, 2008

[2] Obituary from the University of Colorado,


[4] Communications with Jim Widlar


[6] “The man who designed everything”, Paul McGowan, iEyeNews, July 11, 2012

[7] "The History of Semiconductor Engineering", Bo Lojek, 2007

Nov 20, 2013

Computer Labs, Inc.

After taking so many standardized, multiple-choice tests in elementary school, I learned that statements containing “all” or “never” are probably incorrect. So, of course, not “all” analog greats or analog companies trace their footsteps through Boston or Silicon Valley. In the case of Computer Labs from Greensboro, North Carolina, they were home-grown. That is, until Analog Devices acquired them and gave them the appearance of a Boston area analog company.

So who was Computer Labs and why did they appear in North Carolina?

To answer that, we have to go way back to Cleveland in the years before Alexander Graham Bell is credited for inventing the telephone. In 1856 the telegraph was king and George Shawk purchased one of the little shops building equipment for Western Union. Former chief telegraph operator for Western Union, Enos Barton partnered with him and then George sold his share to an Oberlin College physics professor-turned-inventor name Elisha Gray. The Gray and Barton company became Western Electric. Western Electric had very close ties to Western Union in terms of financing, company directors as well as being a key supplier. To prove that timing is everything, on February 14, 1876, Bell filed a patent for his new telephonic device. It arrived at the U.S. patent office only hours before Bell's closest competitor: Elisha Gray (who had sold his interest in Western Electric in 1875 and retired from the business). Western Union sued the much smaller Bell Company on behalf of Gray. And surprisingly, the suit ended in 1879 with Western Union withdrawing from the telephone market and Bell acquiring Western Electric in 1881.

With Bell’s patent eventually expiring in the early 1900s, the pressure was on to continue innovating. So Western Electric's engineering department developed a new “research branch" to cultivate inventors and inventions. Thus was born the organization that would become Bell Laboratories. I will skip over the tremendous achievements by Bell Labs during the two World Wars in the interest of time. In the 1950s, Western Electric had manufacturing facilities across the US, including North Carolina. Known as the “Winston-Salem, North Carolina Works” the facilities in Burlington, Greensboro and several in Winston-Salem were designated for defense electronics. They were heavily involved in manufacturing electronics hardware for Cold War military programs, such as Nike Zeus, Nike Ajax, Nike Hercules. Within the “Works”, the Greensboro “Shops” manufactured missile guidance systems. The designs were initially done mostly at the Bell Labs facility in Whippany, NJ, but Bell Labs established engineering groups at the various Western Electric locations to support the hardware.

And that’s how Bell Labs arrived in North Carolina.

Greensboro native, John Eubanks, received his MSEE from North Carolina State University and went to work at the Greensboro Bell Labs location. Bob Bedingfield, also from Greensboro, was his technician. In the early 1960s they worked on an ADC for the receiver part of the Nike-X radar system. Walt Kester said, “John was one of the smartest engineers I ever met, and I was fortunate enough to work with him for a few years when I joined Bell Labs in 1963.” The converter used a version of Gray code (called “folding” today) patented by F. D. Waldhaur (Bell Labs, Murray Hill, NJ). Walt believes the ADC was supposed to be eventually manufactured by Western Electric, but the calibration procedure and testing was pretty much beyond the capability of the Western Electric support engineers.
Robert Bedingfield
John M. Eubanks

The government acknowledged the importance of Western Electric's defense work in 1956. The culmination of an antitrust case filed by the Department of Justice in 1949, the 1956 consent decree ordered the Bell System to divest all of its non-telephone activities – except those involving national defense. That forced them to agree to confine their manufacturing business to telephone equipment and license any new technologies they developed to others. Of course, that decree ruled out the commercialization of the ADC that Eubanks worked on.

In 1966, John and Bob decided to leave Bell Labs and start Computer Labs. They wanted to do a commercial version of the ADC that not only could be sold to the subcontractors (GE, Raytheon, and MIT Lincoln Labs), but also to other customers. They started out with some financing by a local company that made electronic instruments for the textile industry (Strandberg Engineering) and used their facility as a base of operation. The first employees other than John and Bob were from Bell Labs also, including Buford Goff (engineering/sales), Don Brockman (sales), Gene Boles (draftsman/layout), George Buchanan (manufacturing). Apparently, there were never any hard feelings between Bell Labs and Computer Labs. Computer Labs actually paid royalties to Bell Labs for several years because of the Waldhaur patent. Kester, who also left Bell Labs in 1969 and joined Computer Labs, recalls, “we would get a few $100k NRE to develop a new ADC, and then get production orders, and eventually it would become a standard product. We didn’t have to sell too many systems at $10k each in order to pay salaries to 30 or so employees.”

As the Cold War wound down, most of the Bell Labs employees in NC were transferred to NJ or given early retirement. The Computer Labs products in the early 1970s were mostly rack-mounted instruments, but gradually got into modules, card-level products, and hybrids. Analog Devices purchased Computer Labs in 1978 for the high-speed technology, and John and Bob pretty much retired from the business. Initially it was known as the “Computer Labs Division of Analog Devices,” but that label was dropped. Today, the Greensboro site is a design center focused on integrated circuits.
MOD-815 Video ADC

The footsteps started right there in Greensboro, NC.


Photos used with permission of Analog Devices, Inc.

Computers Labs history based on email communications with Walt Kester

"Western Electric and the Bell System, A Survey of Service" edited by Albert B. Iardella, 1964.

"Western Electric",

"Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric", Stephen B. Adams and Orville R. Butler, Cambridge University Press, 1999; Reviewed for EH.NET by Eric John Abrahamson, The Prologue Group.

Nov 17, 2013

Nike Air Bedingfield

North of San Francisco with a great vantage point on the Pacific Ocean is the only Nike missile site that has been converted to a museum. It is within sight of Russian Hill in the city, not too far from the Russian River and an hour or so away from the southernmost point of Russian occupation long before California was claimed for Spain. For those who didn’t live through the Cold War, it’s hard to imagine that we needed missiles pointed toward the western sky to shoot down incoming Russian bombers.

To me, Nike means running shoes, basketball shoes, celebrity endorsements and Steve Prefontaine at the University of Oregon (and waffle irons – another story). To the U.S. Army, it was a network of installations to protect against the very real threat of 500mph Soviet jets flying at 60,000 feet with nuclear payloads. The inspiration for the names of those two, Nike, refers to the mythological Greek goddess of victory.

I’m well aware of analog computers using vacuum tube to calculate trajectories to shoot down planes in World War II. Twenty years later, that was no longer sufficient. Three radar systems were needed: one to look for enemy targets, one to track the target, and one to track the missile once the others were locked. In 1958, the U.S. Army began the development of the Nike missile system, with Bell Laboratories responsible for much of the early hardware design through Western Electric.

In the Continental United States the sites were numbered from 01 to 99 starting at the north and increasing clockwise. Nike Site SF-88L refers to the launcher area (L) of the battery located in the northwestern part (88) of the San Francisco Defense Area (SF). You and your Nike shoes can wander all over the site, now a museum. Each site had three parts: C for control, L for launcher, and A for administration. Part C, which no longer exists at SF-88 as far as I can tell, had the radar system which was a digitally-controlled phased array radar system for guiding the short and long-range interceptor missiles. I like phase array radar because it uses lots of Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADCs)!

Initially, the logic was resistor-transistor-logic (RTL) in hybrid packages. At the time, ADCs in general were rare and “high-speed” types were virtually non-existent – except to the deep pockets of the U.S. military. Early prototypes for the 8-bit 10MSPS ADC were developed at Bell Labs in North Carolina between 1963 and 1965. In 1966, two pioneers in high speed data conversion, John M. Eubanks and Robert C. Bedingfield, left Bell Labs and founded Computer Labs, Inc. The initial product was a commercial version of this ADC.

I am still researching these two, as well as the history of Bell Labs in North Carolina. Google Patents lists some key contributions in the area of high-speed data conversion:

  • John Eubanks patents a multi-waveform generator, at Bell Labs in Greensboro, NC, US patent # 3,274,396, filed May 16, 1962.
  • John Eubanks patents the peak detector at Bell Labs, US patent # 3328705, July 6, 1964 and a pulse amplifier also at Bell Labs, US patent # 3,439,286, July 29, 1965.
  • Robert Bedingfield patents a sample and hold circuit using an operational amplifier and a high impedance buffer connected by a switched diode capacitor circuit at Bell Labs (Greensboro, NC), US patent # 3,363,113, Aug. 2, 1965.

The first commercial ADC using folding Gray code architecture (Waldhaur's patent from Bell Labs) was the 8-bit, 10MSPS HS-810 from Computer Labs, Inc., in 1966, according to Walt Kester who worked there. Bell Labs researcher Frank Gray introduced the term reflected binary code in his 1947 patent application, now known as Gray Code. (Clever naming: HS-810, for a high-speed 8-bit, 10Msps converter.)
 The HS-810 used all discrete transistor circuits and was offered in a 19" rack-mount box for digital radar receiver applications. It contained its own linear power supply, dissipated nearly 150 watts, and sold for approximately $10,000. The next generation of Computer Labs' designs would take advantage of modular op amps (Philbrick, Analog Devices, et al), Widlar’s μA710/711 comparators (Fairchild) – they must have been so thankful for ICs – and 7400 TTL logic.

In 1978, Analog Devices acquired Computer Labs and continued developing board-level data converter products and hybrid ICs as the Computer Labs Division in Greensboro, NC, and eventually high-speed ADC ICs. And in outright gratuitous name-dropping, I will add that Nike’s biggest celebrity, Michael Jordon and his size 13 footsteps, led the University of North Carolina to a national championship in NCAA basketball in 1984. For which we have a near endless variety of Nike Air shoes. And we aren’t really worried about Russian bombers attacking San Francisco.


“ANALOG-DIGITAL CONVERSION”, "MT-024" and "MT-025", Analog Devices, tremendous gratitude for the contributions of Walt Kester.


Nov 11, 2013

Beginnings of Burr-Brown

The footsteps in “Analog Footsteps” came about because I learned that so many key people spent time in either Silicon Valley and Stanford, or Boston and MIT – and a great many followed each others’ footsteps on both coasts. Literally, up the same steps. So how did a great analog company like Burr-Brown start up in Tucson, Arizona? Well, they happened to add a few footsteps around MIT.

Robert Page Burr was born in New York in 1922 to Robert Page Burr and Lawrence (Hewlett) Burr. Page was his grandmother’s maiden name. (After a quick look, I found no evidence that he was related to Aaron Burr or Raymond Burr, nor that Lawrence Hewlett was related to William Hewlett.) Robert, the son, was active in ham radio and attended Princeton University. In 1943 he left for the V12 Navy ROTC program at Cornell University and received a B.S. in electrical engineering, in 1944. He pursued the midshipman's school at Columbia, and received training in radar at Bowdoin and MIT. It’s not clear when he became friends with Tom Brown but their paths crossed several times. Burr was assigned to the New York Naval Shipyard, where he spent a year supervising fire-control and anti-aircraft radar installations on new vessels before separation in 1946. He worked for 10 years with Hazeltine Corp., (now part of BAE) developing electronics for radio and television.

Thomas Rush Brown Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Longview, Texas. At the age of 12 he went to boarding school at Woodberry Forest in Virginia. At the age of 16, he was accepted into MIT. But instead, he joined the Navy where he was first introduced to electronics. After the Navy he returned to MIT, this time earning a degree in general engineering in 1949.

His first career was in teaching but when he realized it would never pay, he headed off to Harvard Business School and earned his MBA in 1952.  If anyone knows how he ended up in Tucson, let me know!

Anyway, Burr and Brown became fascinated with the new device – the transistor. It was 1956 and Burr recognized that transistors inherently had the reliability of a "short piece of bare copper wire." They realized that virtually no electronic instruments at that time were using the transistor and a company was born in Tom Brown's Tucson garage. Burr-Brown Research Corporation was incorporated on May 8, 1956 (reminiscent of George A Philbrick Researches and Nexus Research Labs). Burr assumed the presidency and Brown became vice-president. The first Board of Directors meeting was held on May 10, 1956. Corporation law required four directors but BBRC only had three – Page, Tom and Tom's wife Helen. To solve the problem, one of Tom's friends, Joch C. Leonard, agreed to be present at the first board meeting and then resign five days later. Burr once said that Tom Brown was an engineer in the Edisonian tradition – a perfectionist who succeeds through repeated efforts to get it right. Initially, Burr worked on product development in New York and Brown handled sales and manufacturing in Tucson.

Burr-Brown started with “instruments” in wooden boxes. The 1st product was the model 100 AC Decade Amplifier. Other early products, in wooden boxes, included a Differential AC Amp, Square Wave generator, Variable Gain Preamp and AC Millivolt Meter.

As stated on the poster from the University of Arizona conference room named for Brown, he found that customers were removing the circuits and discarding his beloved boxes!

The model 130 was the world’s 1st transistorized op-amp. This was a completely discrete design using just 8 transistors on a PC-board in a 3 ½” long aluminum shell.

Henry Koerner, Rick Gerdes, Helen and Tom Brown, (unknown) and Don McGraw

In 1958, Burr left the company, turned in his stock and Brown assumed the role of president. Burr never expressed any regrets about missing Burr-Brown’s massive success. He started Circuit Research Company, the new product development contractor for Photocircuits Corp. in Glen Cove, New York (acquired by Kollmorgen). There, he developed printed motors, which revolutionized magnetic tape drive systems widely used in medical equipment, welding and automotive equipment. Burr held well over 200 patents worldwide. He was the first recipient of the IEEE Charles J. Hirsch Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to engineering. All in all, he had a successful career and retired in 1987 as the senior scientific officer.

Meanwhile, back in 1962, a Burr-Brown op amp was the first to land on the moon as part of the Ranger program. Of course, the mission was a failure because it actually impacted the moon and never returned any photos – during a period when the program was called "shoot and hope". I should confirm that Ranger 7, which was completely successful, probably also had Burr-Brown op amps aboard.

Burr-Brown relied on its location near the University of Arizona in Tucson for skilled engineers and created a very close and productive relationship.

Much is written about what an inspiring leader Tom Brown was, but I'll leave that for others.  In 1983 the company changed its name from Burr-Brown Research Corp. to Burr-Brown Corporation. In 1984 Burr-Brown went public. In 2000, Burr-Brown was acquired by Texas Instruments for $7.65B. And for a cliff-hanger, did T.I. spontaneously start up in Texas or are there footsteps leading from either Boston or Silicon Valley?


1. Burr-Brown company history page, Funding Universe,;jsessionid=tidy7h3co3y0?title=Burr-Brown+Corporation+--+Company+History&page=

2. Burr-Brown, Wikipedia

3. “R. Page Burr '44”, Princeton Alumni publication, published in July 7, 1999, issue,

4. “Who Is Tom Brown?” By Steve Taranovich, EDN, October 25, 2012

5. “Tom Brown: A Serendipitous Life” December 2002


7. “Tom Brown ‘43” []

8. “Analog: back to the future, part 2”, Steve Taranovich, EDN, July 16, 2012]

9. IEEE Global History Network,]

10. Robert Page Burr