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INDUSTRY NEWS

Present at the creation

Few companies have the cachet of the original Fairchild Semiconductor operation. It was founded in 1957 by a group of disaffected employees from Shockley Semiconductor Labs, who William Shockley later called the "Treacherous Eight."  Fairchild pioneered chip manufacturing in what was to become Silicon Valley. Many core semiconductor technologies still used today, such as the planar process, were initiated and developed at the company. The long list of important chipmaking businesses with Fairchild roots includes Intel, National Semiconductor, AMD, and LSI Logic.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WALKER RESEARCH ASSOCIATES/PANALTA

A new documentary DVD, The Fairchild Chronicles, tells the story of the mother company through the words of those who worked there. The nearly three-hour film was coproduced and directed by Rob Walker, a former Fairchild employee, cofounder of LSI, and creator of Stanford University's Silicon Genesis project. Drawing on interviews in the project archives, the participants detail the early years, the company's rise to prominence, the difficulties encountered in the 1970s, the disastrous Schlumberger ownership period, and its eventual sale to National in 1986. Industry luminaries such as Gordon Moore (one of the original eight, who went on to cofound Intel with Robert Noyce and others in 1967), Charlie Sporck (who joined the company from GE as its first manufacturing director), and Jerry Sanders (who began at Fairchild in the early 1960s as a boy-wonder salesman) reminisce about their experiences and colleagues during the first few decades of the semiconductor industry.

One telling anecdote underscores the ingenuity of the original Fairchild team. Moore recalls how Noyce scrounged to put together the original lithography system. "He went to San Francisco to a large camera store and dug through their supply of. . .16-mm movie camera lenses and picked out the three that were best matched in so far as focal length was concerned. And those were the optics in the step-and-repeat cameras we built to make the first transistor structures."

Moore's account is but one of many fascinating stories in this invaluable historical document. The DVD is available for $39.95 at www.thefairchildchronicles.com.


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