From Bell Labs to Silicon Valley: A Saga of Technology Transfer, 1954-61

Tue, Oct 20 2009, 7:00 pm        

Although scientists and engineers at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey invented the transistor and developed most of the related semiconductor technology, the integrated circuit or microchip emerged at Texas Instruments in Dallas and at Fairchild Semiconductor Company here in Silicon Valley.

Physicist and historian Michael Riordan will recount how the silicon technology required to make microchips possible was first developed at Bell Labs in the mid-1950s. Much of it reached the San Francisco Bay Area when transistor pioneer William Shockley left Bell Labs in 1955 to establish the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View, hiring a team of engineers and scientists to develop and manufacture transistors and other semiconductor devices.

In September 1957, a group later known as the “Traitorous Eight” resigned en masse from Shockley’s company to start Fairchild Semiconductor Corp. Bringing with them a wealth of scientific and technological expertise that was unique in the world, their bold move marked the birth of Silicon Valley, both technologically and culturally. Amongst these eight were Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, who later went on to found Intel.

In March 1961, Fairchild began marketing its Micrologic integrated circuits – the first commercial silicon microchips – based on the planar manufacturing technique developed at the company by Jean Hoerni which is still in use today.

From Bell Labs to Silicon Valley: A Saga of Technology Transfer, 1954-61 1About the speaker,  Michael Riordan, UC Santa Cruz/Stanford University

Michael Riordan is Adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Lecturer in Stanford University’s History and Philosophy of Science Program. He is the author of The Hunting of the Quark (Simon & Schuster, 1987) and the coauthor (with Lillian Hoddeson) of Crystal Fire: The Birth of the Information Age (W.W. Norton, 1997), which was awarded the 1999 Sally Hacker Prize of the Society for the History of Technology.

A Fellow of the American Physical Society, Michael was the recipient of a 1999 Guggenheim Fellowship in connection with his research on the history of the Superconducting Super Collider. In 2002, the American Institute of Physics awarded Riordan its prestigious Andrew W. Gemant Award for his efforts in communicating physics and its relationship to the wider culture.

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