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 

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