The Makers of the Microchip

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					The Makers of the Microchip
Creating the Planar Integrated Circuit,
      Establishing Silicon Valley

    Christophe Lécuyer and David C. Brock
• The history of a seminal
company: Fairchild
• The history of two
fundamental innovations:
the planar process and
the integrated circuit
• A documentary history
approach: follow the
emergence of the firm and
the creation of the
microchip through the
documents produced by
the founders and other
key engineers at Fairchild
• Microchips and the digitalization of the human-built
• Microchips and the “Silicon Valley dynamic”
• Fairchild was a critical site for establishing the
  developmental path of digital electronics
• Fairchild was important for initiating key aspects of
  the “Silicon Valley dynamic”
• The microchip and the “Silicon Valley dynamic”
  emerged in the context of three logics:
       - Silicon logic
       - User logic
       - Competitive logic
• Fairchild
establishment (October
• A very unusual
founding team
• Complementary skills
and competencies
(chemistry, solid state
physics, optics,
metallurgy, electrical
engineering, industrial
and mechanical
engineering, glass
• Where Fairchild came
from: The Shockley
• Rebellion against
William Shockley
(Shockley’s management
style and differences of
opinion about the
direction of the firm)
• The letter to Hayden
Stone & Company
• Financing from Fairchild
Camera and Instrument
(an early form of venture
• Sputnik and the growth of
the military market for
silicon devices
• Focus on the
development of
manufacturing processes
• The order from IBM (core
driver for an airborne
• Development of two
transistors: NPN (Moore)
and PNP (Hoerni)
• Introduction of the first
diffused silicon transistor to
the market (August 1958);
monopoly position for about
a year
• The reliability problems
of Fairchild’s first
transistor (the tapping
test problem)
• Hoerni and the
development of the
planar process
(January-March 1959)
• Hoerni returned to
ideas he had jotted
down in his notebook in
December 1957:
  - Oxide layer
  - Protected junctions
  - Contacts
• He set these ideas
aside for about a year
• Starting in January 1959,
Hoerni worked on the planar
process (for a PNP transistor,
and then an NPN transistor)
• Hoerni made the first planar
transistor in March 1959
• Decision to invest
significant resources in the
development of the planar
 - Much improved reliability
   and performance
 - Hoerni’s showmanship
 - Autonetics and the
   demands of military
   computing (Minuteman)
 - Competitive pressures
   (Rheem Semiconductor)
• Difficult transfer to
production (major yield
• Fairchild introduced the
planar transistor at the IRE
show in March 1960
• Fairchild’s engineers
planarized the firm’s
transistor line and
developed new planar
transistors and diodes
(new plant in San Rafael)
• The starting point for the
last 50 years of
manufacturing technology
• The planar process gave
Fairchild Semiconductor a
significant advantage in
the development of
miniaturized electronic
• Different approaches to
 - Hybrid circuits
 - Thin film circuits
 - Functional devices
 - Integrated circuits (TI,
• Robert Noyce used
Hoerni’s invention of the
planar to conceive a
practical form of the
integrated circuit
• Competition with TI and the
launch of a crash program on
microcircuits directed by Jay
Last (Summer 1959)
• The challenge of isolation
• Last and the invention of the
physically isolated integrated
• Proof of concept for the planar
integrated circuit
• The diffusion isolated
integrated circuit
• A concept first proposed
by Noyce
• Idea revisited and
realized by Lionel Kattner
and Isy Haas (September
• Introduction of an entire
line of integrated circuits
to the market in March
• Fairchild’s planar
integrated circuits set the
developmental path for
• Fairchild Semiconductor’s innovations in the 1960s:
the development of MOS and the creation of
commercial markets for silicon transistors and
integrated circuits
• Formation of new integrated circuit firms out of
Fairchild: Amelco, Signetics, General
MicroElectronics (first wave, early 1960s); National,
Intel, Intersil… (second wave, late 1960s and early
• Emergence of the venture capital business in
Silicon Valley
• The second wave of Fairchild spin-offs, often
funded by venture capital, created the microchips
that accelerated the digitalization of the human-built