RW: Hi, I'm Rob Walker. We're here today with George Rostky who's a journalist who's been covering electronics for almost forty years. In particular, he's the author of Thirty Who Made a Difference, which was published on the 30th anniversary of the integrated circuit. He has donated the publication plus over 100 audio taped interviews to Stanford. Welcome George.
GR: Delighted to be here.
RW: Tell us about your early days.
GR: Well, I was born at an early age and became interested first in astronomy until I learned how much math was involved and I quickly dissipated the interest. Then I became interested in psychiatry and I wanted to go to medical school, this was interrupted by the Second World War when I was extremely patriotic and I enlisted in the Army because I wanted to go abroad and fight. And the Army learned that I wanted to go abroad and fight, so it sent me to school. Further, the Army learned that I was interested in medicine, so it sent me to engineering school and that's how I got into engineering. And I worked as an engineer for a number of years, worked on the last vacuum tube computer, the Elocom 1000C, then you had different boxes for computers, this was a file processor. Elocom 125C it may have been. And then that was run by Underwood Computer Division which was one of the major computer companies and Underwood folded and I had to get work and fortunately this it folded just in time for a thing called the IRE show, the predecessor to the IEEE show, which became known as the Electro Show, which is now practically down the tubes.
RW: And IRE stands for Institute of Radio Engineers
GR: Institute of Radio Engineers, which in 1962 became the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, merger with the AIEE, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. At any rate, at the IRE show in '57, I walked around the floor of the Coliseum, the show was then a giant show, and ran into people from Electronic Design who hired me as an associate editor which was a big surprise to me. Me an editor? I didn't even know how to spell editor. And I started an editorial career in 1957 and in time I worked for Electronic Design for a number of years. Then I went to Wall Street for about a year as a Securities Analyst, specializing in electronic stocks, then went back into the editorial business with a magazine called EEE, which had previously been known as Electronic Equipment Engineering, and was the editor, became the editor-in-chief there for a number of years. And that was finally sold to EDN, which was a Connor's publication that merged into EDN, and then I returned to Electronic Design where in time I was made editor-in-chief, and then joined Electronic Engineering Times as editor-in-chief and associate publisher where I stayed for, I don't know, ten years, and I still write a column for Electronic Engineering times which used to be an editorial called 'By George,' and I do various projects and including this one which was more fun than anything where I was asked to write about the 30th anniversary of the IC. And this was a fun project where I got to interview about a hundred people who were the pioneers of the integrated circuit business. And that's brings us up to there.
RW: And you've given those tapes to Stanford.
GR: I have indeed.
RW: That's excellent. Well what was your general - what was the commonality in all of these pioneers, was there any?
GR: Yeah. Yes, I think the common thing I was left with was with only two exceptions, all of these people were modest about their achievements. All of them with only those two exceptions shrugged off their achievements and said they were at the right place in the right time and they tried to pass off the honors to somebody else. Even what I consider world class citizens like Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore who are - well Bob Noyce was ultimate gentlemen, and even they were very modest about their achievements and just, you know, they were in the right place at the right time. All of them. And they were all good guys. I had known almost all of them earlier before I did the story many years earlier when they were just guys in the business who were doing business and who would approach me as an editor and we would eat together and drink together, but they didn't know how important and how earth shaking was the stuff they were working on. And my all time favorite story about that is Gordon Moore who told me that he was then the director of R and D at Fairchild, and Fairchild was the outfit that developed the first commercial integrated circuit and after Fairchild developed the first commercial integrated circuit, Gordon told me that he brought his people together and told his people well we've finished with the integrated circuit, what shall we work on next?
RW: Yeah, Gordon is a hell of a guy. He also never says anything stupid. You can take - you can write down what he says and publish it just that way. He doesn't say much, but he frames his words. I was always impressed by that. He actually used to write the Intel Annual Report himself...
GR: Did he? Did not know that.
RW: ...which is really unusual. Well let's start back in the beginning, Shockley, what do you know about him?
GR: I think Shockley is a confirmation of the law of the anatomical anomaly, which states that there are more horses then there are horse's asses, or the other way around. A brilliant guy and a sick person. A very sorrowful person. I called him a few years ago to - because I thought it'd be nice to interview him for a series I was running in Electronic Engineering Times called 'Speak Out,' where we interviewed top guys in the industry and top thinkers and I thought Gee wouldn't it be neat to have one of the fathers of the transistors talking about what has happened since the transistor. And the first thing Shockley said is, "well, I want to go onto another phone where I can record this conversation," and I had done a couple hundred of these interviews with major players in industry and government and so on and I have not encountered this. Well okay, and then he gets to another phone and he says, well he wants the President of my company to sign a document assuring him that nothing he had said would be changed. Well, okay, but I've done a lot these, nobody's complained. I'm pretty good at this. And then he started talking about how his work was more important than his co-Nobel winners, Bratin and Bardeen, because he was working on the junction transistor rather than the point contact transistor. And I thought that was kind of - not world-class stature for an individual. And then I kiddingly said well the transistor had actually been invented back in 1929 by a guy the name of Lillian Feldon in Brooklyn, and he became very defensive about this and pointed out that Lillian Feldon had never committed a transistor to practice and so on, and the patent office demands that - it was a very disheartening interview, so I was sort of sorry for the man, but I was sort of depressed because I hold Nobel Lauriat's in a certain...
RW: Well now did you publish it?
RW: Did you publish it?
GR: No, never ran it. I essentially said don't call us we'll call you. Oh he wanted - all he wanted to talk about was his theory of the inherent inferiority of blacks and how they should be sterilized and so on. And I kept on saying well that's very interesting but not what we're interested in. And that's all he wanted to talk about. He talked about how Pretorian knew about his work and I essentially said thanks John, don't call us, we'll call you.
RW: Amazing. Well the fellows that - the treacherous eight, one thing that Shockley was good at was hiring really smart guys.
GR: Oh god yes. Somebody said he was a great personnel director. This was when people had personnel departments instead of human resources departments.
RW: But he did hire world-class people, but then they couldn't stand him and they left and started Fairchild.
GR: Not only that, but when he hired them they were excited about working for the guy who was one of the three guys on the transistor, but he lost interest in the transistor and he wanted them to work on the four layered diode which went no place. And of course he had some unusual management philosophies. He posted everybody's salary on a bulletin board and if he ever wanted to criticize somebody he believed that it should not be a private matter because it had educational value. So he would bawl people out in public. He would call a public meeting and have a public execution. So these were not endearing qualities.
RW: Well anyway, the group went off and started Fairchild and they did come up with the silicon transistor.
GR: No, not quite. They came out with the first commercial IC. The silicon transistor was developed by TI in 1954 the first silicon transistor. And I wrote at the time that this would be pretty important in those rare occasions when people needed a high temperature operation and cost was no concern. One of my great predictions.
RW: Well, but they did take over that market. They did produce high performance silicon transistors that...
GR: By this time germanium was all but dead except in certain power applications when its low saturation voltage was an advantage, but yeah, germanium was all but dead in signals operations and Fairchild did indeed, really made the IC a dominant way to build things.
RW: Well now, who did the first integrated circuit?
GR: Well the first integrated circuit was really Jack Kilby at TI. That circuit probably would not have been a commercial reality because it had wires over the surface of the chip. At Fairchild meanwhile, Jean Herné developed the planer process and Noyce recognized that this would be useful in the integrated circuits so they used - the first planer ICs were made by Fairchild and they - Fairchild was the first one to make a commercial integrated circuit.
RW: Yeah, instead of requiring discrete wires, there was...
GR: Right, which would not have flown. It should be interesting when TI introduced the - that first integrated circuit which it called a solid circuit, a name which hasn't stuck, they said this was the ultimate in micro-miniaturization.
RW: And it was a gate or something wasn't it, or an oscillator?
GR: It was a flip-flop. They had two circuits, a flip-flop and it may have been an oscillator and they had a lot of transistors on there, like eight. Where as today you have millions of transistors on a chip.
RW: Well so, Noyce develops a practical approach and Fairchild brings out RTL and then followed by DTL.
GR: Fairchild did not pioneer DTL. DTL was pioneered by Orville Baker at Signetics and Signetics was doing fine in that and Fairchild modified the process and came out with a cheaper one which became the DTL circuit - the 930 DTL, which dominated the market and lost a job for the guy who was then running Signetics. My memory's turned to mush, you may remember.
RW: Yeah, it just about destroyed Signetics. Because the price came out it was a fraction of Signetics.
GR: Yes. Right. Signetics incidentally was the first pure IC Company because all the others were transistor companies that also had ICS. Signetics was the first one was - did not have transistors in its history or background.
RW: Well, I got one for you. Where did the 5-volt power supply come from?
GR: Don't know.
RW: I do know.
RW: I know as a matter of fact.
GR: Tell me!
RW: Me and two other guys.
GR: No kidding?
RW: The 930 you may recall RTL, used 4-volts.
GR: No the 930 was DTL.
RW: Yeah, but RTL used a 4-volt supply and the mil standard supplies were 6 and 12. And so we were - I was at PhilCo-Ford then and we got some of the very first DTL product - 930 product and there was an open question as to what the power supply would be so we ran speed power analysis and we decided that 5-volts would be the best and we were working with Hank Bloom at Fairchild and so sure enough we came out and you couldn't even buy a 5-volt supply then. And we had the first commercial line of modules that used DTL and we had to go out and actually have custom built for it, 5-volt supplies. So now you know where the 5-volt's from.
GR: Oh wow! Yeah, good.
RW: Well anyway, so DTL 930 series was - took off like a rocket and left TI behind. But then they jumped ahead with TTL, which was plug compatible and faster.
GR: But I think Sylvania was the first outfit with TTL. I think. I'm not certain. And they came out with a process called SUHL, S-U-H-L, for Sylvania Ultra High Level Logic. And I was the moderator at a conference that I had organized in Paris where we had a bunch of companies talking about different processors, and this was a multi-national conference. People came from all over to this conference. And Tom Longo I think was talking about SUHL and somebody asked him - by this time TTL was popular, he says, Mr. Longo or Dr. Longo, what is the differences between SUHL and TTL, and Longo just fumbled and tried to change the subject and I took over the microphone and I said in America it's just as important to develop a new name for something as it is to develop a new something. And the place fell apart. But SUHL was TTL. I'm not sure it may have been the first TTL circuits, but did not become the most popular one.
RW: Well the key to what TI did was that they made these plug compatible and power supply compatible with 930 series and so the sockets were just waiting and it was just a simple upgrade. And it was hugely successful.
GR: Yes. True, true. And TI had a couple of very, very important TTL circuits that started taking over the marketplace and it killed DTL.
RW: Well speaking about logic...
GR: By the way, before you mentioned RTL, before RTL, there was RCTL, which you may recall, Resistor Capacitor Transistor Logic.
RW: Well those logic forms were used because transistors were expensive and passive components were inexpensive.
GR: That's right. And everybody knew that active components would always be more expensive then passives.
RW: And of course today, integrated circuits are made up entirely of transistors and interconnections. There are no resistors, there are no...
GR: Well there are diffused resistors.
RW: Yeah, but not used for logic. For input protection is probably...
GR: Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah.
RW: Well while we're on the logic families, there were two other families, ECL and CMOS, how did they come about?
GR: Well, RCA was a great company for developing processes that other people made money on. RCA was the pioneer of CMOS, which they called CSMOS for Complimentary Symmetry Metal Oxide Semiconductor. This came out of RCA, which I think never made money on it. RCA also developed the liquid crystal display, which also didn't make money on but other people did. And ECL I think Jean Aroot I think was the pioneer of ECL at Motorola. And this became popular in very high-speed applications. And Motorola dominated that business for a while with a series they called MECL, for Motorola Emitter Coupled Logic, which was the fastest logic family at the time, but also the most power hungry. So those things ran hot, you fried eggs on some. And Motorola came out with a series, MECL 1, MECL 2, and finally MECL 3, which was really high speed logic and - but they couldn't produce it. And there was a famous story about this gal who goes to her attorney and says she wants an annulment and the attorney says well honey, you don't really mean you want an annulment. You want a divorce. No, she said, I want an annulment. Well let me explain, you've been married three years, I'm sure you don't - let me explain it. She said, oh I understand all that, what you don't understand is I'm married to a Motorola MECL 3 salesman who just sits on the end of the bed and says it's going to be wonderful. So that's your MECL 3 story.
RW: But neither family became a predominant family, and TTL and STTL and LSTTL were the - by far the largest volume.
RW: And with TI making many, many millions of dollars on it.
GR: The 54 series and the 74 series' as I remember, yes, yes indeed. And people liked - well when people started using MOS it was an attractive process, but they couldn't get it to work right. The failure rates were very high. Yields were terrible. And CMOS - people loved CMOS when that came along, except also they couldn't make it and everybody knew that you would never get the kind of densities in CMOS that you'd get with bipolar circuits, except they were wrong. The attraction of CMOS was that it consumed very, very little power, but it was hard to make. You couldn't get a lot of the CMOS on a chip and it would never be dense. Well, they were wrong.
RW: Right, Pentium is CMOS and dissipates about seven watts, so...
GR: Well seven watts is a lot of watts.
RW: Well it is for those things, for an entire computer it's not too bad. Well let's go to the linear side. There's a type of integrated circuit called Linear ICs, which commonly thought of that Fairchild started those.
GR: From a practical viewpoint, that's correct. From a, I guess you want to say scholarly or something like that if you're really interested in the art, GE introduced some linear circuits, some operational amplifiers before Fairchild did, but they never pushed it and they weren't very good and they never got off the ground. Then Fairchild introduced the 702 which became sort of popular, and then Bob Widler who was sort of a crazy guru at Fairchild introduced the 709 which really took off and then I think it was Dave Fullagar, improved it and removed - you needed external compensation on the 709 which people found undesirable and Fullagar introduced the - I think it was sure it was Dave Fullagar who introduced the 741, which was superior and didn't require external compensation and this became the linear integrated circuit of the industry - was subsequently copied by the Nascent Advanced Micro Devices.
RW: Well then everybody else.
GR: And then everybody else, but Advanced Micro Devices built its company on making an expensive 741.
RW: Let's break now.
GR: One of the fascinating guys in the whole history of this business is Bob Widler, not the most modest guy I interviewed, but I new Widler well and among other things he had a more then cordial relationship with my secretary back in New York when he came to town and she was interested in marrying him, but this was an institution that Widler did not have in high regard. Widler was a copious drinker and at the time he was very, very much into Chivas Regal, and I had the opportunity to drink with him. I was running this conference in Paris and he was one of the speakers and I had the opportunity to drink with him at a Paris bistro one night at a ratio of 1 to 5 until I quit and he did not. He could really pack it away and one of the wonderful stories about Widler was told me by Bob Sprague who was and is the chairman of Sprague - of National Semi...
RW: That's Peter Sprague.
GR: Oh, Peter Sprague not Bob Sprague. I beg your pardon. Right. Thank you. Peter Sprague, and he said that he and Charlie Sporck were at a meeting, some sort of convention or some sort of seminar where Widler was a featured speaker and this - Widler was supposed to give his address at noon and he was packing away. He had a bottle of scotch there and he was putting it away and they were terrified that he would be smashed at the time of the conference. And they figured the only thing to do is they would drink the stuff to make sure he didn't so they each decided that they would drink the scotch so there wouldn't be any left for Widler. What they didn't know is that he had a spare bottle. And they were smashed and Widler gave a flawless performance.
RW: But he was a certified genius, wasn't he?
GR: He was a brilliant guy, brilliant guy, but crazy, and probably an insecure guy. I mean he had to do things to make himself special like the famous business of having an axe in his briefcase which he once flung at Pierre LeMonde at National whom he didn't like, and presumably they preserved a gash in the floor from his axe or from his hatchet. And there are other wonderful Widler stories. I think my favorite story is about how he approached his boss at Fairchild, Charlie Sporck, and asked him for an outrageous raise. And I think I have described it in the article that Sporck declined in unambiguous terms and I hope you understand what this meant. So Widler quit and joined a young company out there called Molectro. At about this time National Semiconductor was a little company out in Connecticut that was being sued by one of the leaders in the integrated circuit business, Sperry - Sperry Semiconductor, which has disappeared. And they were sued for patent infringements or something. I don't recall exactly what and they - the Sheriff came and put a padlock on their door. So Sprague went to the West Coast, bought Molectro, changed the name to National Semiconductor and here was Widler working for Molectro and they brought in the new President of the company, Charlie Sporck, so here was Widler working for his old boss again. Which I think is one of the interesting pieces of fate.
RW: But he did so many circuits. It was incredible.
GR: He really did. Low voltage circuits. He was indeed a brilliant guy, brilliant guy, crazy, but brilliant. And fun.
RW: Compared to the digital world where many, many people contributed, in linear, it's sort of him and Talbot.
GR: Dave Fullagar, a few others. Yeah, a few others, but right, not as many people in the linear world, right, absolutely true, yeah.
RW: Well, another form of logic that we haven't gotten around to yet is MOS LSI. And that was a lot of the original work on that was done at Fairchild.
GR: And at other outfits in the area some of which have sort of disappeared. I think General Micro Electronics, which was kind of a crazy story. Suddenly this company came out of no place, GMe, with a small 'e', and of course everybody knew that GM, and nobody - where did this company get financing and how did it suddenly emerge out of no place and everybody knew it must be a subsidiary or a secret subsidiary of General Motors hence the GM. Turned out to be not General Motors. It finally came out to be a subsidiary of Pyle National in Chicago, which was big in making stainless steel cylindrical connectors, and prior to that, connectors for the railroad business and headlamps for railroads and run by a guy named Bill Croft. But, General Micro Electronics also disappeared in time. But it was also - did some very, very significant work in MOS. And MOS was a very promising technology but it was very failure prone and people really didn't know how to make it and they certainly did - certainly didn't know how to make it's off-shoot complimentary of CMOS which was RCA, which I think I mentioned had a great penchant for developing great technological breakthroughs in which other people made money.
RW: Well GMe also contributed to me. That's - I went to - they gave a presentation at the IEEE and they showed these chip photos of these complex circuits and I was a systems guy at Philco-Ford and I said, I want to do that. And so I interviewed at GMe and at Fairchild, and I went to work at Fairchild.
GR: I didn't know that.
RW: So they got me started in that and then they were bought out by PhilCo
GR: The Colonel wasn't that the Colonel - what was his name who ran GMe?
RW: Lowell, yeah.
GR: Colonel Lowell? Yeah. Whatever happened to - I think the company just disappeared.
RW: Well it was bought up buy Philco.
GR: Philco bought GMe?
RW: Yeah, and then they decided, well lets move it all back to Lansdale, PA, and of course, the resources all have legs and so when you do something like that you end up with nothing left over.
GR: And they didn't understand that.
RW: They destroyed the entire organization.
GR: Yeah. It happens so many times. When big companies march in and say we're going to show you how to do things, we know how and they send in their accountants and then that's the end.
RW: Yeah, well, I mean can you think of an exception, there was Schlumberger in Fairchild, there was...
GR: It seemed there was a whole series of small, very good electronics companies, Valentine Labs, what were some of the others - Gertsch Transformer, AnaLab, which - an outfit in Connecticut run by Mort Churaga which made low frequency, superior scopes. Churaga came out in the world and said we're not going to compete head on against electronics, we're going to make linear analog scopes, specialize in analog scopes, very high class analog scopes, low frequency, 700 kilohertz, stuff like that, best in the world. Singer bought them and killed them - a whole string of them. Singer was another one of these experts of destroying small companies.
RW: Now I'm trying to think of the one that Honeywell bought.
RW: Synertech, yeah. And they thought now we've got money we can get a computer because they had actually designed their first microprocessor by hand and they didn't have any computer aids. And they said well now we've got the Honeywell money, we'll be able to buy a computer. And Honeywell - and so they wanted to buy a VAX, and Honeywell said, uh-uh, you've got to buy one of our machines and we're going to have one that's suitable in about a year.
GR: I read that in your book, by the way, I thought your book was fantastic. I loved it. And, yeah, it's a sad history, really. By the way, one of the few companies that has acquired other companies very successfully is Hewlett Packard, which I consider one of the premier companies in the world, really high-class company, run by high-class guys.
RW: Well getting back to some of who did what, how about the DRAM? Who developed the first DRAM?
GR: Well, actually the first semiconductor memory - you've got to give to Tom Longo. He developed - I think it was even - it may have back at Transitron, which had an interesting history by the way. And he developed I think it was a 16-bit RAM and I don't remember the year and then it developed - but the first significant RAM that really started killing the Core, that was what the early ones were called, Core, Core memory though they were made of semiconductor... was Intel in 1971 with the 1103 as I recall. And at the time I was the editor of, I think Electronic Design, and a dozen companies - a dozen semiconductor companies assured me that they were the only ones delivering 1K dynamic RAMS. So it was somebody at Intel I think who really made the first one that worked and it was a very difficult chip. It had a manual this thick telling you how to use it because it had strange clock circuits, refresh circuits that people didn't know anything about.
RW: A good friend of mine was a sales rep and he had a line of capacitors and he said the 1103 was the best thing that ever happened to him. You literally had to have one capacitor per IC, so. Well how about non-volatile memories? There is PROM, EPROM, EEPROMs.
GR: Well again, I think the most significant one is what we call an EPROM with a single 'E', which is also called the UVPROM, and I think that was also Intel.
RW: Doug Froman.
GR: Yes, right. And that was a very significant one. Then Intel superceded that with a double E or E-squared PROM. So and I think you've got to give a lot of credit in these things to Intel. Intel did a lot of really good things.
RW: Well I have an EPROM story for you. No one else has ever heard about.
GR: Oh. I would like to hear it.
RW: Never been published. I was at Intel at the time and we found that if you left these things out in the sunlight they would erase in about a day and under fluorescent lights in about a month. And here they were in military equipment and they were all around all these sensitive applications and we found that under - that they would lose their data. And so we rushed around and found a coating that we could put on there...
GR: On the quartz windows?
RW: ...on the windows that would stop that from happening, would filter out the sunlight and so on. And so you had to have this deep UV to erase it, but how about all those that were out there? And so what we did is we put this very tiny little - in the data sheet - we put this tiny little disclaimer, worded as confusing as possible because we didn't want to admit liability, but we came up with some little things that were like labels, and they had them...
GR: Like not responsible for or something?
RW: ...no, no, they were - you would put them on. They would stick on the top and you would put the rev level, now you'd put what program it was and rev so and so, like people like to keep track of on it, and then we gave these free to all our old users and guessed that this would be a good way to keep track of what was in the...
RW: And it never came out that these - because most of them were locked away in boxes and it was dark.
GR: You mentioned data sheets and it is the first time data sheets come up in our discussion and I must say I have an all time favorite data sheet, which I'm sure you remember and that's the Signetics famous data sheet, on the WOM.
RW: Mm-hmm. Write Only Memory.
GR: The Write Only Memory, which some crazy guys at Signetics developed and I knew the guy and I've forgotten his name who wrote up this data sheet on this ridiculous component called the Write Only Memory. And it was written like any other data sheet and some people got sucked into ordering them and so on. And they had some funny bits and one of them was that it used SOS construction. Now SOS is a process that everybody had forgotten also developed by RCA and another company that I don't recall called Silicon on Sapphire. And what Silicon on Sapphire was supposed to do is give you a great deal of isolation, which was very, very important. And the process never made it because it was a very, very difficult process, but at the time SOS was very hot and Signetics had a data sheet on this medical component SOS reported, you know, in foot notes, had SOS construction, they had courtesy of U.S. Army commissary 1942, which I think a lot of people may remember what it represented.
RW: Okay, creamed chip beef on toast.
GR: That's it, exactly right.
RW: I did one of those myself. I did a - in the days of MSI a 4-bit arithmetic unit using BCRN, binary coded roman numerals.
GR: Oh wonderful!
RW: And I worked out all the logic and I did a data sheet on it, and I - a preliminary data sheet and I sent it out with all our other preliminary data sheets and there was a group down in Florida and they had a sales meeting and their field application engineer was to go through these new products. And so he's going through these products and he hasn't spent much time and there's about ten of them, new products that we were going to introduce at Fairchild and he comes across this thing and he gets about half way through the presentation and he begins to realize that this was a joke. And he was so embarrassed.
GR: By the way, not to be outdone at the time Signetics came out with this thing and we wrote about it and we had a little column, I think I was at EEE magazine, and we had a column called, "Across the Editor's Desk," which we wrote nonsense items. And we always - in our funniest stuff we treated dead serious and we wrote about this is one of the great developments of the century, and National, not to be outdone, came out with a DEAD, which you may recall, the Darkness Emitting Arsenide Diode, which we pointed out had the great the advantage that the wafer provided a hundred percent yield. So that was a - and then Signetics came out and they showed a picture of this guy, I don't remember his name, holding one of these - a big thing with wires - with metal snips, holding a somewhat oversized chip and in the background of the picture there was a water tower, which I guess is still across the street from Signetics, and pointed out in the background you see a picture of the device with a center post for cooling, an oversized TO5, big water tower. Had a lot of fun with those and this is one of the things I regret. A lot of the fun things that used to happen, the industry's become more serious.
RW: Yeah, we're more mature.
GR: Yeah, and I regret that, of course, I mean I would call up Bob Noyce and trade jokes in those days and I guess you could of still done that with Noyce, but not with some of the others. You couldn't do that with Andy Grove today. Grove is too busy and too serious. And I think the industry is now - I may be one of the few survivors of the day when people used to kid.
RW: Well you know, talking about that, how about of all these people that you've known and interviewed and written stories about, who were some of the funniest ones?
GR: Maybe Jerry Sanders, but there were a few others, Art Furey. There's a funny story about Art Furey, which I think I related. He joined GE as a marketing guru at one time and GE had barrel loads. GE, you may recall pioneered the SCR and I was one of the first guys to write about the SCR in 1959, a very, very important development. And then they subsequently came up with - I think there was a 70-amp device that subsequently came out of the 16-amp device was very important. And Art Furey joined GE in that barrel loads of SCR, which wouldn't make their voltage spec, which had to meet 40-volts breakdown. And they had a whole bunch of these things that couldn't beat 40-volts and they were waiting to find some guy who would take them away from them at lowest cost and dump them someplace. And Furey came along, and he said 40-volts, the toy manufacturers don't know from 40-volts, they think you get electrocuted with 40-volt. He went to the toy manufacturer - he went to one toy manufacturer and you know, they know from like 3-volts, you know, a couple of AA's or maybe high voltage a 9-volt battery. And he sold it into a toy called Tommy Turtle. And what you did was you clap your hands and Tommy Turtle would march off for a few feet and you'd clap your hands again and Tommy Turtle would stop and you'd do it again. Fantastically successful toy using these reject SCRs that GE was going to pay somebody to carry off. They had barrel loads of these things. And the following year they introduced a successor to Tommy Turtle called Tricky Dickey Duck. Same circuitry, different package and that year Richard Nixon was nominated for the Presidency of the United States and they had to scrap I don't know how many millions of packages.
RW: I got a Art Furey story for you, too. He was in the watch business somewhere and they were making these liquid crystal watches. And he found out that they had a lifetime - the display had a lifetime of only a few weeks and then would fail. And so they had all these watches with - that were going to be failed as soon as they were powered. And they had an English subsidiary and he was here in the states and so what - he came up with this idea and they packed them up in boxes and they stenciled on them, you know, electronic watches, handle with care, all this stuff and then they shipped them by surface out of New York into England and then when they got to England, they said well these aren't any good and they sent them back. So by the time they had gone by surface all the way to England and back there was almost none left. They'd all been stolen, collected the insurance...
GR: Wonderful story, I love it!
RW: Well, okay, if some people are the funniest, who are the saddest of these folks?
GR: Well not related to the IC except distantly was of course Shockley who had this hang-up on blacks and who felt about the eight that he drove out of the company as the 'Treacherous 8' and wouldn't talk to Bob Noyce for many, many years after when he caught him on the street. And when he spoke to me he was, you know, very protective and all he wanted to talk about was his project on the inferiority of blacks and so on. That's a very, very sad one. And I don't think I can remember any of the others, but there's one of the fellows - I suddenly remember his name, Buie, and I forget his first name, B-U-I-E, who really was the inventor of TTL, though Longo takes credit. Indeed, Longo added a latter circuit, which made the TTL practical which would not have been so with the Buie circuit. And I had difficult tracking down Buie when I wanted to do this story and finally tracked him down at his home where I couldn't talk to him. I had to talk to his wife - talk to him through his wife because he was dying of emphysema. And so I would ask her a question, she would ask him and get back to me. And he died before the story came out, but he was really the pioneer of TTL and that's kind of a sad story.
RW: Yeah it is. Well how about rudest? You mentioned Tom Longo. He certainly fits into that category. I actually had to work for the guy for a while.
GR: Oh, well, Tom was not the most modest guy I spoke to and he also in some ways some people would say he's not the ultimate gentleman. He had a certain attitudes, especially towards women, which I think some people might find out of place.
RW: Yeah, he was - he started this company called Performance Semiconductor and he actually had a chance to go public and - but it wasn't enough money and then the company went under and they sold it to Cypress and I don't know if he made any money on it at all.
GR: What did you say about Cypress?
RW: About Performance was sold to Cypress.
GR: Oh, I didn't know that.
GR: I'm doing a focus group for Cypress tonight. I didn't know that's where Performance went.
RW: My ex-wife used to sell manufacturing software for a semiconductor company and she knew Tom Longo. She'd been at Fairchild like everybody else was. And so she called on Performance and Longo was there and he made it clear that if she hoped to sell the software package that she had to go to bed with him. I mean he made no bones about it. It was just out in the open.
GR: He was not one of the classiest people I got to know. I guess the last time I saw him was at a trade show. We went off to lunch together and he was - let's say not classy.
RW: Well last time I saw him he was here at Stanford and he was sitting alone outdoors and he looked like a pizano, you know, he was sort of slumped over and...
GR: Oh what a sad thing and a very bright guy.
RW: Yeah, didn't look good at all.
GR: Very bright guy.
RW: Well, you know, many of these people you've talked to are entrepreneurs. What do you think it takes to be an entrepreneur? You've observed, you know, literally hundreds.
GR: God, I don't know, but I'll tell you what I think what a common factor of them. For one reason or another they felt they couldn't do what they wanted to do at their current jobs. I don't think money was the driving factor in any of these cases. I don't think anybody said I'm going to start my own company because I'm going to become a millionaire. I don't think any of them started with that idea. But they felt Gee, I came up with this idea and my company doesn't want to do it for whatever reason. Usually the reason is the company didn't want to do it was because they were entrenched with something just like the transistor company did not come from the tube companies because the tube companies, as a matter of fact, I was the co-author of a book commissioned by RCA. RCA paid me money many, many years ago to write a book comparing the value of the transistor and the vacuum tube. And the object of the book, and this is what I had to do because I was paid to do this, it said, there's a place for tubes and there's a place for transistors. And RCA was not going to become a pioneer in transistors. They had too much stake in tubes, which were highly profitable, all the machinery is paid for and you didn't need a hell of a lot of research. Every once in a while you came out with a new tube with more grids in it. And the same with these companies. They weren't interested into getting into competing technologies. So a guy would have a great idea of doing something and his company wouldn't do it. I got to prove it works. So he would go off and start a company. He was driven - he was trying to prove himself and he was trying to prove his idea was right. And I think this was a common feature of these guys. I don't think money was the driving force in any of these. And sometimes it was because they were working for horses' asses as in the case of the guys who left Shockley Transistor. Shockley was a horse's ass.
RW: Well, Umdol left IBM because they wouldn't build a low-cost big machine.
GR: Yeah. Good example, good example. There are many such cases where guys left and sometimes guys just wanted to work for themselves. They didn't want to work for their boss anymore. Sometimes because they thought their boss was a schmuck and sometimes even though they liked the boss, they wanted to be on their own, didn't want to report to somebody.
RW: But how come so many of these people come to Silicon Valley or are in Silicon Valley? I mean what makes this place unique even different than the Route 128?
GR: Shockley. Shockley. Schockley. Because Shockley lived in Palo Alto and when he left Bell Labs he came back to Palo Alto, his home, and started Shockley Transistor Labs. And that's what started Silicon Valley. You've got to go back to Bill Shockley. And if it weren't for him starting it here, and also he had a great institution here, Stanford. Where a lot of the guys who wrote the basic textbooks, and before we were talking about Fred Turman who was one of my college texts, and he was one of the guys at Silicon Valley and he was responsible for the formation of HP. But I think in the silicon end - in the semiconductor business, it was Shockley. If Shockley lived in Debuque instead of Palo Alto, you would have Silicon Plains.
RW: Well, you know, you've seen Route 128 and Silicon Valley. And Route 128 used to be much larger in high tech and now it's much smaller. What do you account that for?
GR: For some reason Route 128 acquired a whole bunch of systems companies, but it was also the home of a major transistor company which had a unique philosophy, that's Transitron, started by I guess it was David and Leo Bakalar, the Bakalar brothers. They rented out of Wakefield and they believed in not spending money. When you had to heat things you used hair dryers because you could use hair dryers - buy commercial hair dryers for ten bucks a piece or something like that in quantity instead of buying commercial ovens which were much more expensive. And they built Transitron on a unique philosophy. They were going to copy TI. And what they did is every time TI came out with a new transistor they reverse engineered that transistor and built that transistor. They also had some unusual selling philosophies, which were described to me by their first employee, Nick DeWolf. I once walked through San Francisco with Nick DeWolf. Nick DeWolf was a very tall guy. He had legs that stretched all the way down to the ground and walking through the San Francisco hills with Nick DeWolf was quite an interesting experience because he'd take one step and I'd take four to stay up with him. And he told me how Transitron use to sell diodes. He said he'd walk into some engineer who - Route 128, big systems house, Raytheon or Sylvania one or the others, building big military systems, and he asked to see the guys schematic and he would looked through his schematic and find a diode in that schematic and be horrified. You're using a 140 here, you know the 140 was like a dime or two-cent diode. My god, and he started crying about how some pilots life might depend on this circuit and pretty soon the guy was crying and what should I use Mr. DeWolf? Well, you need a - and he'd recite a 14 digit number that he'd made up out of his head at the time, and the guy would right that down and put that number on his spec, you know, for this diode, you need this number or equivalent - the Transitron number such and such or equivalent. Well nobody could bid on it because they didn't know if it was germanium or silicon or blue cheese. Anyway, and this was a 14 dollar diode from Transitron which was relabeled 1N40. Transitron went public with Merrill Lynch and then got sued by stockholders soon after the stock collapsed who said that there was fraud in the perspectives or what have you. And Merrill Lynch got taken for a bunch of dollars. The Bakalar Brother's were covered. They bought insurance for just this kind of situation. Transitron, I think, has disappeared. It became a connector outfit for a while. They were peddling connectors as well as transistors, but reverse engineering wasn't a good enough long-term proposition.
RW: I used to use Philco transistors. They were the fastest available for awhile, MADT, were they? I think maybe they...
GR: Yeah but they were germanium transistors and they were fast transistors. Did they come out of here or from Wisterhicken Avenue in Philly?
GR: Why do I remember Wisterhicken Avenue? How can you remember something like that?
RW: But it's truly amazing that the growth here, something is right. And everybody is an entrepreneur around here. I mean it's - the people follow the stock. They can tell you what the closing of their stock is at their company. They're interested in what the competition's doing. My wife had a cousin or something that worked for Caterpillar in a relatively senior position and Caterpillar's, you know, very well thought of American company, well run and successful on a world basis. And I was talking to this person and he didn't know anything about the company's competition. All he knew was his little department and that's it. And so there's a different mindset.
GR: Part of it was the institutions. In the old days they had Wagon Wheels. The Wagon Wheel's still going? And the Velvet Turtle...
RW: No the Velvet Turtle is gone.
GR: The Velvet Turtle is gone, okay, but the Wagon Wheel - this was an institution. All the guys - all the competitors would come and drink at the Wagon Wheel and talk to each other because they weren't a - weren't that conscious of competitive business environment. You know, what are you working on Charlie, what are you working on Jack, and they would swap lies with each other about the great things they're doing.
RW: Yeah, when Hogan and his bunch arrived and they found that going on they were appalled. Coming from Arizona you just didn't do that. And Jerry Sanders in his white suit was just...
GR: Well I knew Sanders when he wore a purple shirt when everybody wore a white shirt, and I'll tell you a Sanders story some other time. I got to tell you my Hogan story. I was doing this series called 'Speak Out' where we interviewed major people in the industry and I went to Phoenix to interview Hogan and at the time I was with EEE Magazine. No, it wasn't 'Speak Out,' it was a different series, a predecessor series in which we interviewed guys who knew what they were talking about and this was on the future of the discrete semiconductor and Motorola was the dominant factor in discrete semiconductors. And this was an engineering publication I was running and Hogan started giving me a marketing spiel, which I couldn't use. The guy who was the PR guy for Motorola was a guy by the name of Lothar Stern, then whom nobody has been more aptly named and Stern was sitting on the side of the room wearing his best Sunday clothes watching this important editor talking to this important executive at the company, and Hogan is giving me this spiel about marketing statistics which I couldn't use in this engineering publication I was running and finally I said Les, let's cut this shit out, and you can hear all the air in the room going through Lothar Stern's teeth. And Hogan just spun on a dime. Okay George, and he gave me a wonderful interview. Hogan is a very exciting guy and a very dramatic guy and a very photogenic guy. We had some great - and at the time we used to demand 150 pictures of the guy because we'd select one picture for the cover, and Hogan is leaping in the air with his arms in the air and jumping all over the place, and great picture with the Motorola logo on the background he's leaping in the air, we're about to run this story, mid 1968, and suddenly we get a call from Lothar Stern, you've got to kill the story, Hogan had just moved over to Fairchild, Motorola's stock plummeted, Fairchild's stock went like that. August 1968 we desperately ran around, found somebody else who's story we could replace Hogan's story with, and here we had this wonderful picture of Hogan leaping in the air. A whole bunch of wonderful pictures with a Motorola logo in the background. The New York Times was running a subway billboard campaign, where they'd have you know, Sally Smith, Chief Secretary, Joe Blow, Assistant Accountant, always with the same headline 'I got my job through The New York Times.' We called up the Times, got that type face, put it on an acid tape overlay over Hogan's picture, sent it to Hogan via or Heller who was then the PR guy at Fairchild. Heller delvers this to Hogan and says Rostky sent me this stuff, he said it's for you, he told me not to open it. Hogan opens this package, sees himself at Motorola with a copy, "I got my job through The New York Times," he just about fell on the floor. And I spoke to him a few weeks ago. He still has this picture at home in his desk.
RW: Yeah, I interviewed him and it came out that he'd been recruited. Every job that he ever had he was recruited to and I said Les you're the only person I've ever known that's never had to look for work. And he said, you know, I never thought about that.
GR: When did you speak to Hogan?
RW: Oh this was three or four months ago. I interviewed him.
RW: Anyway, I'd like to finish up with one last question. You're a EE, you're a smart guy, you've been in this business forever and you've been reporting on it. I mean you could have been running these companies. You could have been an entrepreneur.
GR: Nah. Not smart enough...lean on, like Ed Sullivan, lean on other people's talents.
RW: Okay, well great George, thank you so much for the interview.
GR: And thank you for the pleasure. I enjoyed it a lot.