The boys of Silicon Valley

59 years ago, one of the most ground breaking technical inventions was produced.  On July 4, 1951, Dr. William Shockley announced the successful creation of the junction transistor, a robust solid state “switch” that was commercially viable and would eventually replace the antiquated tube transistor in future electrical products.  This invention was patented by Shockley on September 25, 1951 and earned Shockley and two other Physicists the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956.     

Following the invention of the junction transistor and Nobel Prize recognition, Dr. Shockley was given a golden opportunity to run his own laboratory in 1956 called the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory located in Mountain View, California.  During its formation, however, Shockley had difficulties recruiting former colleagues who experienced his management style as domineering and paranoid.  Having no luck recruiting colleagues, Shockley turned his search to the best Universities where he located eight young research engineers to advance his lab’s work in solid state transistors.  The eight engineers were: Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts.     

Dr. William Shockley

Dr. William Shockley

By 1957, Shockley had made the decision to depart from research into silicon-based semiconductors and instead continue efforts to make his three-state transistor device more commercially viable.  This short-sighted research decision mixed with Shockley’s continuing authoritative management style, caused his eight young researchers to challenge his leadership and seek other research opportunities.  After a meeting with Sherman Fairchild, the founder of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation, the eight men started another Fairchild company called Fairchild Semiconductor.  Their resignation from Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory earned the eight men the dubious title of the “Traitorous Eight”.  While there is no record of Shockley ever accusing them as traitors, Shockley’s wife Jean insisted he never used the term.  Dr. William Shockley died on August 12, 1989 at the age of 79.     

The "Traitorous Eight" at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957

The "Traitorous Eight" at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957

Under the brilliant research and technical leadership efforts of the “Traitorous Eight”, Fairchild Semiconductor marched on to become the company that gave birth to present day Silicon Valley and the company that co-invented and manufactured the first Integrated Circuit (IC) product.  From each of these eight men, and the others that later joined them, spawned almost every major semiconductor company on the planet.  Here are their brief bios:     

Julius Blank     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor to start Xicor Corporation in 1978.  Today, Julius Blank is 87 years old.    

Victor Grinich     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1960s to begin teaching at Stanford University and UC Berkeley.  In 1975 wrote the book: “Introduction to Integrated Circuits”.  Victor Grinich died on November 5, 2000 at the age of 76.      

Jean Hoerni     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor to start Amelco Corporation (today known as Teledyne Corporation) in 1961.  Inventor of the Planar Process allowing transistors to be created out of silicon instead of germanium.  Also founded two other companies: Union Carbide Electronics in 1964 and Intersil Corporation in 1967.  Jean Hoerni died on January 12, 1997 at the age of 73.      

Eugene Kleiner     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor to start the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers after partnering with Hewlett-Packard veteran Tom Perkins in 1972.  Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is the venture firm that funded a number of premier Silicon Valley companies including:, AOL, Brio Technology, Electronic Arts, Flextronics, Genentech, Google, Hybritech, Intuit, Lotus Development, LSI Logic, Macromedia, Netscape, Quantum, Segway, Sun Microsystems and Tandem.  Kleiner also invested part of his own capital to help fund Intel Corporation in 1968.  Eugene Kleiner died on November 20, 2003 at the age of 80.     

Jay Last     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor to also start Amelco Corporation (Teledyne Corporation) with  colleagues Jean Hoerni and Sheldon Roberts in 1961.  Today, Jay Last is 81 years old.     

Gordon Moore     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor to start Intel Corporation with friend and colleague Robert Noyce in 1968.  In 1965, wrote a technical white paper where he declared the following: “The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years”.  This prediction became known as “Moore’s Law” and has held true ever since.  Today, Gordon Moore is 81 years old and is Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation.     

Robert Noyce     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor to start Intel Corporation with friend and colleague Gordon Moore in 1968.  In 1959, while at Fairchild Semiconductor, Noyce co-invents the integrated circuit (IC). Over time, the integrated circuit becomes one of the most celebrated inventions of all time.  His place in history earned Noyce the nickname: “The Mayor of Silicon Valley”.  Robert Noyce died on June 3, 1990 at the age of 62.     

Sheldon Roberts     


Left Fairchild Semiconductor to start Amelco Corporation  (Teledyne Corporation) with colleagues Jay Last and Jean Hoerni in 1961.  Today, Sheldon Roberts is 84 years old.  

Fairchild Semiconductor's "Family Tree"

Fairchild Semiconductor's "Family Tree"

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