Interview with John East
July 27, 2008
Saratoga, CA

John East has been in the semiconductor industry for over forty years. Beginning with his high school years as a ham radio enthusiast, he always wanted to be an electrical engineer. Graduating from the University of California with BSEE, and MBA degrees, he began his career at Fairchild Semiconductor. He gained experience at a variety of manufacturing, product engineering, design engineering and marketing positions. He eventually left to move to AMD, where he supervised both bipolar and MOS design. In 1998, he became CEO of Actel Corp, a provider of field programmable gate arrays. Later in the interview, he is joined by his wife, Pam, to discuss the Silicon Valley balancing act of work, family and recreation. So today we're here with John East and John, tell us about growing up and your family. What was that like?


JE: Not really remarkable. I was raised in Merced . My father was a doctor but he'd been in World War II and then he moved to Merced and we settled down there when I was, I think, five years old. Lived there until I was through high school and then I went to Berkeley for six years, came to Silicon Valley . So not much else to say about childhood, I think.


RW: Well, were you the only child?


JE: No, I have a sister and my parents actually have been divorced and remarried, so a couple of half brothers and sisters. But only one that lived with me, my sister. She was a year and a half older.


RW: And why did you choose engineering?


JE: I was not a particularly attentive student when I was young. I remember in sixth grade, I was always in trouble because I was talking in the class and generally the scourge of the teacher that was there. He was a particularly good guy; I remember his name was Mister Fantz. He was trying to figure out how to get me to be a little more quiet and pay a little bit more attention and he knew a little bit about electronics, so he started teaching me about it and he assigned me to build a little radio and to learn what schematic diagrams were and try to understand what tubes were and how they work because that's what was being used at the time. And that stuff was really fun so I went on to get a HAM radio license and when I got that, I decided well, this is what I really want to do. I want to design these circuits. So I knew probably by the time I got into high school that I wanted to be an electrical engineer and that's what I did.


RW: And you chose Cal Berkeley.


JE: Cal Berkeley.


RW: Why was that?


JE: Yep. I—I missed the question.


RW: Why was that?


JE: Oh, it was close and a good school. My dad liked it because I went there in '62 and you remember all the action that happened there, the Freedom of Speech movement and what have you, that started in '64, '65. So in '62, it was viewed as being a straight laced, buckle down engineering and physics kind of school. My dad liked that a lot. And it was close, so it just seemed like the perfect choice. And I never regret it, I love that place even today.


RW: It's interesting today that you go to the Corey Hall, the electrical engineering area—I went there, too—and everybody's an immigrant now.


JE: Yeah.


RW: That's—that th—don't seem to be many native born Americans that go into electrical engineering.


JE: I'd forgotten that you were a—a Berkeley grad so congratulations. But yeah, you're you're right.


RW: It took me only five years.


JE: [Laughs] Oh, really? Took me four and a half. Not a problem. The American culture has changed. It used to be that gee, you'd send your kids to engineering school and now I think you send them to business school or law school or anything but engineering school. So the ----- a lot of the good engineers in the Valley, not just Berkeley people, but everywhere, are foreign born.


RW: And not just the worker bees, either. The CEOs are half or so—are foreign born.


JE: It's only fair. If they start out doing the engineering and making the inventions, they ought to rise up to the top rung.


RW: Amen. Well, so you got your electrical engineering degree. So what happened then? Did you go out and look for work and…?


JE: Yeah, actually what happened then is I got married and when we made our marriage plans, I changed my graduation date around. Actually it was my master's date, so it ended up that we got married in June of '68 and I needed to finish my master's as soon as I could and then get a job because we needed the money. So I finished the master's in September. But I hadn't gone through the college on-campus recruiting thing, so to get a job; I had to write just a whole bunch of letters. So I remember Pam and I, ------ she typed for me and we—we probably sent out forty or fifty letters and I got hardly any responses back. Think I got one really interested one, that was Fairchild, and then one from HP and one from IBM, but they were just sort of kicking tires. So I went down to interview at Fairchild and the story I'll never forget. I talked to an operations guy named Gene Flath who I was very impressed with, he just blew me away. He seemed to be young and energetic and smart. And then there was a Human Resources guy named Jerry Briggs and we hit it off and they asked me to come back, I don't remember, maybe a month later. And a month later when I came back, they said well, we want to issue you a job offer but we always want to do it at lunch. So we went to Chez Yvonne—I bet you remember Chez Yvonne it's the official restaurant—and they both had couple of martinis or what have you and I wasn't sure if I should do that or not, so I think I did not. And they offered me a job. That was in probably May of '68, but I wasn't ready to come out of school until September. So they told me not to worry about it. They gave me their cards and said okay, couple days before you're ready to come, just give either one of us a call and we'll tell you what to do and—and you're on. So we shook hands, I had the offer there. Went back and didn't check in with them, didn't do anything with them until the day after Labor Day, which is when I finished my last test. And I picked up the phone and called Jerry Briggs, who's the HR guy and Gene Flath—I was maybe a little scared of him, he was going to be my boss's boss. So called on Jerry Briggs, asked for him and the lady that answered the phone said there is no Jerry Briggs that works here. Well, what happened to him? I don't know. There's never been a Jerry Briggs here in all the time I've been here. Well, how long have you been there? Well, I've been here a month now. Well, okay. Maybe I'll call the other guy. So hung up and I called Gene Flath, asked the lady who answered for Gene Flath and she said there's no Gene Flath that works here. Well, what happened to him? I don't know, there's never been a Gene Flath here in all the time I've worked here and I've been here a long time now. Well, how long have you been here? Oh, about six weeks now, it's longer than anybody. Now I was starting to think I was caught in The Twilight Zone . Oh, that show, I think, wasn't on television yet. Yeah, it was. I thought I was caught in The Twilight Zone . But after a while, I figured out well, I should call back the Human Resources, they'll know how to handle the problem. And they put some guy on the phone, I don't remember who it was, and the guy said oh, yeah, there has been a little bit of turnover. Let me get your file. And he came back and said actually, Mister East, we don't have a file on you. Are you sure we offered you a job? And I needed that job. Boy, we were broke. We were really broke. So I offered to drive down there and show him the offer letter and he said no, no, I'll take your word for it. Just show up in a couple days and we'll figure something out. So when I got there in a couple days, they said well, you know, we do have an immediate opening in the Class and Sort area as a supervisor, so we're going to give you that job and then we'll move you into engineering a little later, after you've kind of learned what's going on and a job opens up. And I said oh, thank you very much, that's perfect, that's just what I wanted. Of course, Rob, had no idea what Class and Sort was. And I—in fact, I was a little afraid. I'm going to be a supervisor in Class? I don't even know what these guys make; I don't know what they do. How am I going to be a supervisor in Class? And you probably remember that Class had nothing to do with classrooms, it had to do with classification. So that's where they did the final test and Sort was the wafer sort. So I started out as a foreman in final test and wafer sort, but that isn't what I thought I was going to start at. I could go on and on, but I probably ought to let you ask your next question, Rob.


RW: Well…


JE: Actually since you haven't asked it yet, I will—I will go on and on for a minute. I need to tell you about the early days there. When I first started there, everybody was new and it wasn't quite clear to me why everybody was new. But after a few days of talking to people, you began to realize that back in May when I had interviewed and accepted a job, the company was run by—not by Les Hogan. I think it had—was still being run by Bob Noyce then. But whatever, who had ------ Noyce and a few of the other people that had been running it had left. They had brought in Les Hogan. Les brought seven or eight guys with him; they were called Hogan's Heroes. When they came in, I think they fired a few people. Ones that they didn't fire got pretty scared and left on their own volition. So there was total turnover at the top level and the turnover was still going on when I got there. So I got in just in time to see kind of the fallout of Hogan's Heroes and was it good or was it bad? I don't know, but it was really interesting.


RW: Well, of course, Gene Flath went on to Intel, a major career there. So…


JE: I saw him again maybe thirty years after he had hired me and he didn't remember me at all. But I remembered him and I told him that story and he just laughed at it.


RW: So—so continue on with—with Fairchild. What—what other duties did you have there?


JE: After four months, I went into Product Engineering and back in those days—now the business is so darn hard with software, architecture—it's really complicated. You need a specialist in every kind of engineering. But back in those days, our product engineer pretty much did everything except design and then a little later, we added design into Product Engineering. So I did some product engineering, test engineering, process engineering, design engineering, all that sort of stuff. And then for a year or so, was a general foreman of the test area that I'd started out in and actually I always wanted to move into marketing. There was a guy that I always admired in marketing; I thought I wanted to be like that guy. That was you, by the way, Rob. So when we actually shut down the Mountain View digital operation to move it to Portland , Maine , had an opportunity to move to Portland , Maine with it but decided no, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to go into Marketing, so I did a year, year and a half of marketing there before I left. So I was there eight years and—fantastic eight years. Met fascinating people, people that, boy, to this day I love and respect and people that, boy, I wouldn't be who I am and you wouldn't be who you were without them. And anybody who's watching this, you wouldn't be what you are either because the developments that they were making in those days are what led to the technology that you use today and take for granted.


RW: Oh, it was quite a place. And of course, I was there even earlier with—and under Noyce and Gordon Moore. It was really—it was really incredible. Anyhow, so you eventually you left and you went to AMD.


JE: Actually, I did a really short stint at Raytheon and that was a mistake, so…


RW: That was right down the street, right?


JE: Yeah, yeah. You could—once upon a time, they shared the same parking lot but then they've erected a fence so you couldn't share the same parking lot. But that didn't work well so then I went to AMD and spent ten years there, ten really good years, working with a lot of the guys that I'd worked with at Fairchild. I hadn't worked with Jerry Sanders but I knew of him and Tony Holbrook and Jim Downey and well, I could go on and on and on. But a lot of the early Fairchild guys had gone to AMD and they—I viewed them as a high class set of guys. Still do, so I was excited to start there.


RW: What did you do?


JE: First five or six years, I was in bipolar. I started in bipolar. You probably remember in '68 when I started at Fairchild, they couldn't really get MOS to work. They were trying to make P-channel and I think it had twelve volts Vdd because you couldn't control the threshold more accurately than that. So they made what money they made on bipolar. So I started out in bipolar. I did the interface circuits and 2900 family and general logic and that sort of stuff. And then they reorganized and added MOS in and, at that time, I had the microprocessor business, which was some AMD micros, including the 29000. That was a new one that you probably remember, but I had all the Intel stuff as well.


RW: Well, did you get in on any of the controversies with Intel? Were you involved with…?


JE: Yeah, I was not involved in the negotiations whatsoever. Jerry and Tony Holbrook and, I think maybe Leo Dwork were doing some of those things. So at that time, I had not even met Andy Grove. By the way, I love Andy Grove. He's a heck of a good guy, but in those days, that was a bad word, Andy Grove, because the relationship wasn't going well. And if you look at it in hindsight, well, at that time, I thought AMD is totally in the right and Intel are being a bunch of bad guys. In hindsight, you look back at it and you can see where they were coming from. But there was bad blood without any doubt. So yet, as I was leaving, I—one of the reasons that I stated when I left was gee, I think to compete, we have to compete with Intel on their playing ground and the way this contract is playing out, I'm not sure that's going to be possible. It looks to me like it may be a fool's errand. And in fact, they did it really well for a long time after I left and they're still doing it pretty well. It's up and down and up and down, but it's still going reasonably well for them.


RW: Yeah, it's they've been the only major player in the X86…


JE: Yep.


RW: …drama that goes on. I think the from the Intel position was that the peripherals AMD designed were overly complex and not economic and so they refused to take them and then the contract broke up and lawsuits and…


JE: Exactly.


RW: …which continue to this day.


JE: Yeah. And in fact, both sides of it are probably equally true. That's definitely true that the product that AMD contributed probably weren't—well, they certainly weren't worth anything compared to what AMD got in return. But on the other hand, the contact didn't really spell out that they had to have equal worth, so both parties were really upset at each other and it was—that was not—not a pretty sight at the end. And looking back at it, I love Jerry Sanders and I love Tony Holbrook; those guys were good to me. Andy Grove always seems like a super guy to me, so that's just what happened. It's business, Rob. No bad guys there, just conflict.


RW: Okay. So you left AMD and so what went—what was next?


JE: Well, at AMD, it was divided into three groups—memories, which I never had anything to do with, programmable logic, which I also never had anything to do with, that was much smaller group, and then general logic, which was the biggest, that had anything to do with anything that wasn't either programmable or memory, so I had general logic at the end. That meant I would've been responsible for gate arrays. I remember looking at where the market was going for a long time and AMD had this slogan, building blocks of ever increasing complexity. But more and more, it was seeming to me like that's not what the world wanted. The world didn't want building blocks. Back in the days of the 2901, they were great. You'd take blocks and you'd put them together the way you want them. You write your own microcode, you write your own software, it was a good deal. But the market had moved into a place where, to me, all they wanted was memories really cheap, gate arrays and microprocessors. That's what the world wanted and I had nothing to do with memories, that was somebody else's watch, although we were all afraid that the memory market was going to move in the direction of Asia , and in fact it did. So if we looked at the stuff we had left, we just talked about the microprocessor. I thought it was going to be hard to match Intel and, to me, it was clearly too late to be putting our own one out on—on top of the 29000. So that was sort of worrisome. And I looked at gate arrays and I thought that—that's a recipe for disaster. That's a career killer. At the time, we did a study and we found that there were three hundred people that made gate arrays, I'm sure you know that better than I. You can probably name all three hundred of them. And even then, I was starting to form the opinion that, you know, what—the only people that win are the first ones to get there. You can't get there ten years late and expect to win. So often, people think they can. Oh, I will get there late, but we'll have more femtofarads or less joules or more volts or less watts or—or something and we'll knock that top guy out of the box. My view was there's no hope to knock LSI Logic out of the box. This is turning out to be kind of a flattering conversation, isn't it? You guys…


RW: I love it. Keep going.


JE: Okay. You didn't invent them, far from that. But you put them there just at the time the market decided that they needed them and you owned the market. What you didn't own, the Japanese owned. I said you can't—can't get there. You can't get home from here with gate arrays and it's going to be really, really hard with the microprocessors, so I don't know where I go here. But I liked the idea of programmable gate arrays. That, to me, was maybe the achilles heel in the gate arrays deal, that people hated the front money and they hated the lag time and they hated the fact that they had to know exactly how many they wanted because if they ordered too many, tough, they were stuck with them. And if they didn't order enough, gee, it's another sixteen weeks to get them and I—I think it wasn't sixteen weeks then, but whatever the lead time was. So I thought a field programmable, you know, gate array would really, really, really be nice. And Xilinx was out at the time, I didn't understand too well what they were doing, but at the time, it seemed kind of kludgy to me to configure it with bits in a flip flop, which I thought would get, one way or the other, corrupted. I was dead wrong, by the way. That turned out to be an excellent way to do it. But I met a guy named Amr Mohsen who'd figured out a way to make a nice architecture field programmable gate array. He didn't call it that yet but it was a nice architecture. It was a field programmable gate array and he made them out of antifuses, which in my view anyway, were going to be super reliable and not have any worries about being corrupted. So I thought that's really—that's really a nice thing. There can be some real legs to that. And in those days, I used to get, I don't know, maybe a call a week from somebody who wanted me to be a CEO with their startup company because that was the heyday of the startups. They were all over the place. Every VC in the world was funding semiconductor startups. They were everywhere and I used to go and talk to them here and there, but you—you could see almost immediately that most of them were just—they were dead meat already. They didn't know it. They weren't even in business yet, but they were dead meat. But this field programmable gate array based on antifuse just seemed like a really, really good idea to me. So that was actually a couple year courtship before I took the job, but at the end, I went to be CEO at Actel and that was twenty years ago right now, right at the end of 1988.


RW: And the the process, was that a bipolar process?


JE: No, it was CMOS. You can't get there with bipolar. The switches have to be bidirectional and I'm cured of all my bipolar tendencies. They went away a long time ago. Although the IBM people say bipolar's going to come back, but don't believe them. I think CMOS is the way to do it. But it was not a standard process because the concept got—I'll tell a little white lie to shorten the story down, but DRAMS use ONO capacitors. Or back in those days, they used ONO capacitors to store the charge. And as the story goes, the engineers working on DRAMS would go into the lab to try to figure out why things weren't yielding well. And when they probed the devices, if they weren't very careful with their curve tracer, if they had too much voltage on it, they'd burn out the capacitor and then they couldn't make the measurements they wanted. And after a while, the little light bulb went on and said gee, I can burn this capacitor out anytime I want and when I burn it out, it becomes kind of a short circuit. Why don't I use that? And so that was the beginning of the antifuse in FPGAs. But to do it right, you had to have a really high voltage because you had to make sure these things wouldn't burn out at normal operating voltage. And there's a Tddb, well, you don't want to get into physics here on this thing, but yet, you have to have the programming voltage of the antifuse be a lot higher than the normal voltage that it's going to see. Otherwise, it might have a reliability problem. So we needed to take a standard CMOS process and then bolt some really high voltage capability onto it. And then put an ONO layer in there and the ONO had to be really thin because this ONO you wanted to blow out as opposed to DRAM capacitors, you didn't want to blow out. So it was really hard for us to get foundries at first. We—we started out working with Data General, but they had an old, kind of beat up fab that didn't yield well and then they closed the fab down anyway. We ended up working with Matsushita, who's been a wonderful foundry. Boy, they've had allegiance to us for many, many, many years. But it's still hard to get a big company like Matsushita to put a lot of R&D into a process that they will then sell us a hundred wafers a month on. The math doesn't add up very well, so they always were really good to us, but still, it was hard to get the top priority. We had foundry troubles for a long time until our volume got big enough to get into UMC and that's where we are today and they're a wonderful foundry, by the way. But even today, the antifuse process is really pretty custom. Th—we had a lot of process engineers, a lot of device physicists working, trying to figure out how to integrate high voltage and ONO into a high-speed logic process. And it was not easy.


RW: Yeah, of course, conventional gate arrays are now so expensive that you have to be a Sony PlayStation or something to make any sense. The mask costs alone are a million bucks. And so ASICS that—the conventional ASICS have largely gone away. I mean, there's—I don't know how many designs there are now a year. At our peak at LSI Logic, we were doing ten designs a day, a working day, out the door. But today, I would say the entire world market has got to be in the low hundreds for all those. Is that you have to have such volume and such complexity that it's a huge investment. So I don't think it's no surprise that people really looking for the programmable answer.


JE: Mmm hmm. That they go after programmable and they also go after the application specific. That's where, of course, a lot of the progress is being made. It's interesting, I guess that's the natural rise and fall of the Roman Empire or the rise and fall of a technology, what have you. But you got to Fairchild three or four years before I did. You were in on the invention of ASICS—you didn't call them that then, but I think you were peripherally involved with the gate array, but you were right smack in the middle of Micromatrix, which was the standard cell, right?


RW: Micromosaic.


JE: Micromosaic. That's what we called it there, that's right. Micromatrix was a gate array, that's right.


RW: It was the gate array.


JE: But it seemed to me like that was a wonderful technology for probably fifteen years before anybody really used it. It was just so complicated and people changed their minds so slowly that they didn't use it when it would've been the best thing for them. But now, yeah, you're right. The guys that did do well in that are getting out of it. You look at LSI Logic today and looks like they're getting out of it as fast as they can. IBM and AT&T, well, IBM, I think, pared back to only their top twenty customers and AT&T mostly got out of it. Well, AT&T is now LSI Logic, right? The Japanese people are staying with it, but I think they're having less and less and less fun with it. So I think—I think that is going away and my Actel pitch is wow, see, that's good for the programmable people and I think that it is. But I think it's also good for the ASSP people. The really big volume things tend to be going in that direction, cell phones and what have you. I don't think largely they're doing customs. I think they're buying chips that are designed so that they can be used for that application by a lot of people. Too bad in a way because the work that got done on standard cells and what have you is fantastic work and the capability's marvelous. But yeah, I think you're right, people are not using it that much anymore and I expect the trend to continue.


RW: Well, of your market at Actel, who are the big players? Who do you sell to, your products?


JE: Rob, I can only generalize because I have a deal with my customers that I never disclose their name unless I've got formal written permission and—and, of course, I didn't do that for this. But generally about a third to forty percent of our business is High Rel, so that might be military but it's more apt to be satellite. We have a really nice position in a product that goes into satellites. And that still is antifuse product because the antifuse product is super reliable and it can't be corrupted and what have you. And by the way, a lot of people think about that as oh, you're building all these spy satellites and military satellites. Well, not—not too much of it is that. Its communications and weather and agriculture and a lot of satellites put up that you don't even know about and we're in pretty much every satellite that goes up. A little bit of military business but the other big business for us is industrial and medical, again, because of reliability and we're just starting to crack into consumer now.


RW: But on the space borne work, do you have to have radiation hardness?


JE: Absolutely. There is radiation out there and depending on the orbit that you want to put it into, there can be a lot of radiation.


RW: So again, that's a specialized area, right?


JE: Yeah, yeah.


RW: To get in. Yeah.


JE: There have been a handful of people trying to get into it and they haven't had that much success. I'll knock on wood, where—wherever the wood is, that they continue not having success but it's been a high margin, decent market. It's not huge but yeah, it's very specialized. It's got to be radiation tolerant and you got to have, well, all the high tech stuff that you could imagine but I won't get into now. The customer needs…


RW: Well, it's also somewhat protected from foreign sources, even though you get your processing done overseas. But it's nice to have an area that maybe Toshiba and Sony and et al, Samsung can come at you.


JE: I think it is nice. In a way, it's a shame because, yes, we do buy those wafers from overseas nowadays and the U.S. Government is somewhat worried about that as you would imagine. But there just aren't a lot of good fabs being built in the U.S. anymore and the people that are buying them really don't want to spend them on things like that. So it's a hard problem to know how to crack.


RW: Well, let's talk about management style a little bit. What's the key that you see to managing in a high tech business in Silicon Valley ? It's—there's high turnover. It's very expensive to live here. What management techniques do you use to keep your good people?


JE: Good question. By the way, we have very low turnover on a relative basis, which I'm proud of, so any of you Actel people that happen to be watching this, thank you. You're the reason that the turnover's low is because you're not leaving. You and I talked right when you got here, Rob, about the management style in the early days. I got to Fairchild in '68, but if you looked at the management style between maybe '68 or '75, it was what I called the John Wayne style. If you've ever seen any John Wayne movies, and I know you have, John Wayne style was if a guy wasn't doing what you wanted him to do, you either punched him in the nose or you shot him. And the early big managers at Fairchild were that way and I think you kind of had to be that way. I don't think you could move into upper level management unless you were the toughest guy in the valley and so they prided themselves on showing they were tougher than each other. The bottom line is you pretty much wanted to stay out of their way when they came walking through the halls. Least they show you how tough they were. But back in '68, '70, '71, there people hadn't figured out yet that turnover was bad. It clearly was bad; it clearly was really bad for Fairchild that all the analog guys went to National and all the people that understood Micromosaic, I think, went to AMI. Wasn't that their first stop? All the people introduced to MOS went to Intel. It clearly was disastrous for Fairchild but I don't think they came to grips with what a serious problem it was. And if you had sat down and tried to come to grips with it, I think the first thing you would say is gee, you need to start treating people with respect and you need to give them credit for work they've done. You need to pat them on the back. If somebody's changed the world, you need to make sure that they know that you know they've changed the world. There were a handful of guys, I know you remember, that made Fairchild and yet, I—they all left feeling unappreciated, I would say. You remember Dick Crippen and Bill Sievers and Stan Wilson. They designed all the early TTL stuff and man, they made the company but they all…


RW: And that was one area that Jerry Sanders, I think, was a pioneer in, recognizing engineering talent and treating them well, like they were worth something.


JE: Yep. I happened to have watched your interview of George Scalise and you guys talked about that a bit. But I think AMD was really good at attracting the cream of the crop that had come from Fairchild and from other places and retaining them. And I don't know, Rob, were they the first ones that did that, that started giving dignity to the individual?


RW: Well, they struck me because as a design engineer, which I was, we were always at the bottom of the scale and when AMD started really taking good care of their design engineers, I noticed it right away. And of course, at Intel, too. Decent management. They took good—good care of people as well, unless you worked for Andy Grove. But nevertheless, you were well taken care of and I think you see this in the analog world today. Analog Devices, Linear Technology, they treat their engineers very, very well as an asset, even to the degree if they can get a group of them that wants to live in New England, they will put a facility into New England for you because they just—they treasure that capability. So I think we've come a long way in treating people well.


JE: Yeah. By the way, we have a FPGA core design center in Hanover, Germany because that's where they wanted to live and an architecture - software center in Ireland because that's where they wanted to live. So, yeah, I think you see that often these days.


RW: Well, as an allied issue, Silicon Valley still works rather well. I mean, you're located here even though it's very expensive, there's a lot of competition and so on and so forth. And so what makes Silicon Valley work?


JE: Wow. I needed about a three months' notice for that question. I'm not quite sure where to answer. Now it makes itself work. It's like a nuclear reaction that has passed over the critical place. You have—you have more than the critical mass of engineers and critical mass of infrastructure and critical mass of universities that are pumping into it. Critical mass of people that have lived around here forever and don't want to leave. So if you were doing it all over again, it probably wouldn't happen here, it's too darn expensive, but the critical mass of all those things is here. So it's nice to be headquartered here, there's no question about it. I think if you're headquartered somewhere else, it'd be a problem.


RW: That's good.


JE: We, by the way, have a no growth in Silicon Valley policy that we're pretty well sticking to. My two buildings are full and I really don't want to lease a third building, so we tend to add people in Germany or in Ireland or in Colorado or in Texas or in wherever, but not add here. But we're not at all looking at moving what we have here out. I just don't think that's appropriate.


RW: Yeah, well, I've lived here all my life and so I still love the excitement, the opportunities for starting something new and go to Sand Hill Road and they actually give you money. I was amazed that you just go there and you have this story that you tell them and they write checks. And you go to the bank and the banks just don't treat it as a big deal. They just say oh, okay, you got six million dollars. All right, we'll put that in your account and you walk out, and you have this little checkbook. You can write checks for millions of dollars. It's totally amazing.


JE: Sounds good to me. Although I worry a little bit about that community. I don't think the payoffs are as high recently as they had been and there may be some sort of effect in that community in the long run, which would be a shame.


RW: Yeah. Well, it's been good to us so far. Well, do you have any other thoughts in general about, oh, semiconductor world, technology? I mean, this is your chance to put out your story.


JE: You know, Rob, clearly, right after you leave, I'll have some thoughts or when I take my shower in my morning, I will. But I'm not coming up with any right now.


RW: Okay. Well, let's bring Pam in then and discuss what it's like on the other side of the coin, of being a spouse in Silicon Valley .


JE: Good idea. Let's do that.


RW: We're joined by Pam East, who has to put up with all this, these overgrown men running around with all this crazy stuff going on. So how long have you guys been married?


PE: We have been married forty years. We were married June 16 th , 1968 and just celebrated our fortieth anniversary, which is a miracle, but I'm very happy. It's been a great life.


RW: But John is away at work a lot.


PE: He is.


RW: And so what do you do with your time then?


PE: Well, I actually have my own business and I think that has been helpful because you really have to have something else to do if your husband's gone a lot and you aren't sharing, you know, every dinner, evening together. And so I've had a business over thirty years. I started out as a high school teacher and then I worked at Burroughs's Corporation as a sales rep for a couple years. Then I started a dance studio because I am a dancer and I've had a dance studio since 1975 and it's a very creative outlet and it's been wonderful and he's put up with that also. So there's kind of—you know, it works both ways. And the one great thing about John that I love and I've always loved is he's he doesn't bring his work home. He doesn't come home and talk about it for hours or fester. He might be doing that internally, but he doesn't bring it to the dinner table. Instead—we have two daughters. They're now thirty and twenty-eight and when they were growing up, every now and then, we might have to say Dad, hello, we're here. But he wouldn't complain and he didn't bring it home to make us worry about it. And yet he was also always at every important activity for our daughters. There was no doubt that they were important in his life. He always made it a priority and—on top of his work. I mean, it was clear.


RW: Well, John, how did you do that? Did that hurt your career at all by having to leave to go to Little League or whatever all these kids' events are?


JE: Not the—it wasn't that hard, really. I didn't think it was anything that caused any imposition at all. Sometimes when you needed to be out of town because a customer wanted to see you on a certain day, that could make it a problem. But having two daughters, I didn't have to go through the Little League and most of their things were at night, but you just block the calendar off and say, okay, I'm going home. Not a problem.


RW: Uh huh. No, that's good. That's great because it can be, obviously, a problem for certain segments of society.


PE: Well, I do think it's been good to have my own career, too, my own life because you know, you have to be able to be somewhat independent and I don't mind that. So it's worked out well and we love doing certain things together. We love to travel together and, of course, our daughters are really important to us, our family. I feel really lucky, I really do. I mean, I came from divorced parents, he came from divorced parents and it wasn't like you just assume that's going to happen, it's going to work that way. And that doesn't mean it's always easy, you do have to work through things. I mean, there were times when I'm like hello. But he was always really willing to make—it was obvious we are important also.


RW: But of your - ----- of your friends in similar situations, have there been quite a number of divorces?


PE: There have been some, yes. But it's amazing, there are some that—well, there have been that are not also.


JE: Most of our college friends are still married and they got married when we did. Rob, if I could take a step back here, I'll describe Pam's last three weeks for you.




So she took a troupe of dancers to New York City to be in a dance competition for about ten days. Came home, spent two days at home, then went to a dance studio seminar in Vancouver , Washington for four days. So she has no room to get after me about John, you're gone too much. It's a lot of McDonald's for me in that period of time.


RW: Well, it sounds like that—really, what you're saying is that you—you have to have some sort of meaningful life of your own and you can't just wait for the old man to come home.


PE: No. And I can't talk about what he's—I mean, I don't know the language and I hear more when we go to a party. You know, he'll start talking about everything and he doesn't come home and have these conversations with me. That's why I do like to travel some with him because I—then I can find out more what's going on. And that's fine. He doesn't need to come home and talk about it. And if I ask a question, he's like oh, you don't really want to know that. I mean, and remember him trying to describe to me a design win. Well, it took me forever to really understand that. Now I get it.


JE: That was one of the better fights we ever had.


PE: It was. It was a great fight.


JE: She did not buy my definition of design win. It did not make sense. Yeah, but I would give you a recipe for a long lived marriage, which is you both need to have something of your own and you both need to be important in that something because when one has to live off of the other's, I don't think that works too well. Pam's case, she thinks this semiconductor stuff is, you know, interesting but unimportant because, man, she's running the biggest dance studio in Saratoga area and if she lets it slip, it's going to go to the dogs. So she's motivated. She doesn't need me to come home and tell her what's hot.


RW: All right. Well, why don't you take us on a tour of your house?


JE: So we'll start out with a little tour of my garden. A history of that is that I decided I wanted to learn how to cook Italian food and, by the way, I have not learned to cook Italian food. But one thing I learned right away is you need to grow your own tomatoes and basil. So let's take a run outside and I'll show you my tomatoes and basil.


PE: We'll probably meet Harry on the way.


JE: Is he outside?


JE: So there's a creek over on the other side of the woods there, but we never go back there anymore. But my tomatoes, ---- that's a Big Boy, ---- assuming you care about the variety of tomatoes. Not quite ripe yet. And then over in this direction, if you look, you see pretty much every variety known to man plus a big basil bush.


PE: And they are good.


JE: Yep. Two weeks from now, I'll have so many tomatoes, Mark, you drop by and get all you want.


JE: That's the best close-up of a cherry tomato anybody's ever gotten, I think.


JE: So Mark, my thinking was I know nothing about the inside of the house. Pam will take care of all of that.


PE: Great. I was just going to say we just had our daughter's graduation party from law school and our other daughter's graduation from getting her bachelor's. We had a great party out here and it was the hottest day of the year, but at night, that worked out well. It was just beautiful. We had lights and a lot of people and a lot of fun, so it's a fun backyard to entertain in. We've had a lot of good times out here.


JE: And you're getting a nice shot of our cat right now.


PE: Yeah, there's the cat. That's Harry. He's got an injury but he's healing. And he's a great cat. So we moved out of our home for eight months in 2006 and then we redid the kitchen and our bathroom, which I'll show you. We're still trying to get moved back in, but anyway, this is our kitchen and John, as he said, loves Italian food and so we put in a nice big stove and we used to have an island here but it was too small, so he has a lot more space. And our daughter likes to cook, so she comes in and takes over in the kitchen. And so this was great just to redo it and enjoy. It was just kind of small before. It had oak; it was very dark so we liked to brighten it up. And—but we kept a lot of the same furniture. I didn't want to redo everything because I like what we have and it's home. And so let's move into the dining room. I haven't put—I'm going to put curtains here, they're not here yet. And so we redid this room. We didn't really change much. We just changed some of the colors and we brought some reds in and kept some antiques. I love French antiques, so I like to collect those. This table isn't an antique but we like it. I think we've had just a couple dinner parties since we moved back in. And the entry hall, we bought a beautiful antique here which is fun to show with some of the nice things we have because otherwise you don't know they're there. And the living room, we just redid furniture. Our daughters play the piano and John plays-what's that song you play? He does the Jerry Lee Lewis style, but it's good. It's fun. He also plays the guitar and the banjo. He always forgets to mention that. And he used to sing to our girls when they were, you know, we'd sing them to bed at night when they were little girls. Anyway, we bought this beautiful antique lamp. That's my prize here, that I found in Montreal and the guy had it in a box and he was so excited about it that I got so excited and then I bought it. I hadn't even seen it. But it's beautiful and we really like that. And so then our bedroom wing is down here. You're going to see a huge ladder in the hall but don't mind that, we just have been having to get up in the attic. We've had a few rats that like to live with us; we're still trying to get rid of them. They love the house. But anyway, that's why the ladder is here. And this is—our two daughters shared, you know, a Jack and Jill—Jill and Jill bedroom. So this was one of our daughter's and the other one, I can't show you because I have all my clothes from my trips in there so you're not going to see that one. They had a sharing bathroom. And so we'll pass the ladder and in here, just have lots of pictures, just our family, our daughters and friends and us over the years. I like lots of pictures but I don't necessarily like them all out where everybody sees them, I like us to see them. And so this has been fun. And then you'll have to excuse, there's a little mess in here because we're going on a vacation on August seventh and John likes to make sure he's packed in plenty of time, so he's already set up his packing. He'll be packed by tomorrow. So you'll have to excuse, but he has been packing. So it's our bedroom and this is our favorite antique. I have to show you this because we actually went to France to buy this and it's this huge, beautiful armoire. We had to call home, my mother was babysitting and we had to call her to ask her how high the ceilings were because we knew it was going to be close. We actually had it in the family room before, but now it's in here and John uses it. He—we have it all set up as a real closet and that's his closet. So that's been a fun piece. We had that shipped over, it was a thousand dollars to ship and they broke it down. So our bathroom—so this we redid, so I have to show you this. And everything's not totally done but it's close enough. This is another antique we bought. I love antiques. So we redid the bathroom and this overlooks the backyard and you can hear the fountain so we have a door that opens out, which I love. It just—it's fun. It feels like I'm in France even though I'm not. And then we also have an upstairs area and my mother lived with us for a while, about ten years, and she lived up there. And then our daughters moved upstairs when they were like in junior high and high school. And so our one daughter actually moved back home while she's finishing law school. She didn't think she wanted to pay rent and we didn't think that was a good idea either. So she's been living upstairs. So I'll take you upstairs just to kind of see that although we're not going to look at every detail because she's taking the bar. The test starts Tuesday. So that's been an ordeal. It's a laundry room but we're not going to look at that either. But you know, before we go upstairs, I want to just show you the front, you have so many good things in here, but we're just going out there. And you just, you know, we're close to town, but we're not. We feel like we're far away. So we love it here.Yeah. We don't want to move. We don't ever want to move here so they'll just have to bring assisted living here. In fact, John doesn't like to move. We've only owned two homes, this home and our first home, which—when did we buy that? 19…


JE: '72 and this one, '85.


PE: Yeah. So we do travel and I do go on some of John's trips with him which has been so much fun. I've gone all over the world with him. We're almost done. I think I talk too much. Okay, this—I just have to do the red walls in here, I like this bathroom. This is a mud bath and we just redid the walls in red, just kind of fun. But we didn't redo the tile. And this is one of my other antiques, which I really like. My sister and I like to go and buy antiques. She likes to spend my money but that's okay. She has good taste. So right up here is an extra living so we can actually just really use the downstairs and my daughter's up here right now—our daughter. So we're just going to get a general view, it's like a rec room, living space and then there's two bedrooms. And as I mentioned, she's studying for the bar so it's not exactly organized. But she's been having fun up here. And she's twenty-eight so we don't need to worry about her. Just hope she passes the bar. She's got her table in there but she goes to the library most of the time. So it's a fun house. We've had a lot of fun. We've had all different scenarios in here. People move, they leave, they come back. A nice attic in here, which is like a room. So we don't need to go in there, but it's a lot of stuff we can keep.