In this section, we have over 60 companies that have developed semiconductor chips since the 1960’s. I have attempted to trace the genealogy of all of these companies. As with most family trees the further back you go you begin to realize the family tree is more like a family vine with lots of interweaving of the lines.
The semiconductor family/industry is no different, all semiconductor manufacturers must trace their roots directly, or indirectly, to the invention of the transistor in Bell Labs in 1947. Bell Labs was the research arm of AT&T. In tracing the genealogy of the most well know chip firms we must start here.
Because AT&T was under anti-trust scrutiny when the transistor came to be, AT&T was unable to leverage the market power of the invention which it had created. There were three major events that came to shape the coming semiconductor industry. First, AT&T licensed the manufacture of transistors to several companies. Second, William Shockley left AT&T to start Shockley Semiconductor. And third, Gordon Teal, a physical chemist, left to join Texas Instruments.
Licensing the Manufacture of Transistors
Whether to grow interest in transistors or shed some of the government’s anti-trust attention, AT&T held symposium to demonstrate the transistor. For a mere $25,000 ($180,000 in today’s dollars) companies were offered a license to manufacture transistors. Among the 23* who signed up were some names very recognizable to chip collectors: GE, General Instruments, General Transistor, IBM, Motorola, RCA, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, etc. These companies were quick to capitalize and improve upon the transistor.
Despite the controversy over this contribution to the invention of the transistor, Shockley was the one who created a ripple that shook the semiconductor industry. It was not directly Shockley’s doing, but in creating Shockley Semiconductor, in 1956, he brought together a highly talented and motivated team. However, Shockley’s management style was very controlling and created a tension-filled environment. Eight employees of Shockley Semiconductor, he labeled the “Traitorous Eight”, left Shockley. They joined with Sheridan Fairchild’s company, Fairchild Camera and Instruments, to create a subsidiary, Fairchild Semiconductor, to pursue new technology directions. The eight employees were: Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Gene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts.
Gordon Teal was a physical chemist at AT&T before the invention of the transistor. Teal’s contribution was to create a process for developing high purity Germanium crystals. Teal Left AT&T and joined a small company called Texas Instruments, in 1952, where he created the first silicon transistor.
AT&T never developed a large commercial market for it’s transistors. Largely its transistors, and later chips, were for internal use in its communication networks. Transistors and chips developed by AT&T’s manufacturing arm, Western Electric, are rare and highly sought after.
* The 23 Original Transistor Licensees
23 companies attended the first symposium held by Bell Labs. Each were offered a licensee to manufacture transistors for $25,000. Below is a partial list of the companies that attended: (In alphabetic order)