Makers of the Microchip

Makers of the Microchip:
A Documentary History of Fairchild Semiconductor

Christophe Lécuyer
David C. Brock
Foreword by Jay Last
The MIT Press, 2010

In the first three and a half years of its existence, Fairchild Semiconductor developed, produced, and marketed the device that would become the fundamental building block of the digital world: the microchip. Founded in 1957 by eight former employees of the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, Fairchild created the model for a successful Silicon Valley start-up: intense activity with a common goal, close collaboration, and a quick path to the market (Fairchild's first device hit the market just ten months after the company's founding). Fairchild Semiconductor was one of the first companies financed by venture capital, and its success inspired the establishment of venture capital firms in the San Francisco Bay area. These firms would finance the explosive growth of Silicon Valley over the next several decades.

This history of the early years of Fairchild Semiconductor examines the technological, business, and social dynamics behind its innovative products. The centerpiece of the book is a collection of documents, reproduced in facsimile, including the company's first prospectus; ideas, sketches, and plans for the company's products; and a notebook kept by cofounder Jay Last that records problems, schedules, and tasks discussed at weekly meetings. A historical overview, interpretive essays, and an introduction to semiconductor technology in the period accompany these primary documents.

Christophe Lécuyer is Principal Economic Analyst in the Office of the President of the University of California and the author of Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970 (MIT Press, 2005). David C. Brock is Senior Research Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation's Center for Contemporary History and the editor of Understanding Moore's Law: Four Decades of Innovation.

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The creation of the silicon integrated circuit was the pivotal event that launched the digital revolution. This book provides a detailed and objective examination of how it came about–a very valuable contribution. —Andrew S. Grove, Former Chairman and CEO, Intel Corporation

Makers of the Microchip is a fascinating study of the early years of Fairchild Semiconductor, the firm that put the 'silicon' in Silicon Valley. Through the use of historical documents and erudite commentary, this book brilliantly weaves together the technical and business dimensions to provide insight into the logic that drove Fairchild and made it one of the most important entrepreneurial firms of the second half of the Twentieth Century. —Martin Kenney, Professor of Human and Community Development at University of California, Davis, and author of Understanding Silicon Valley

The microchip has changed the world like no other invention in history. This book is a close-up of the time and place where it was born. A fascinating story, told with the actual documents of those who lived it. I could not put it down. —Carver A. Mead, Professor of Human and Community Development at University of California, Davis, Author of Understanding Silicon Valley and Recipient, 2002 National Medal of Technology

This thoughtfully conceived and nicely executed book offers a wealth of insights into the early history of the silicon revolution. Its newly disclosed documents and unusually perceptive commentary and analysis provide unprecedented glimpses into the inner workings of Fairchild Semiconductor and the remarkable entrepreneurial team that propelled this transforming epic in modern business and technological history. —Steven W. Usselman, Georgia Institute of Technology 

These original documents and historical commentaries present a unique window on the birth of the silicon age. A splendid way to understand innovation–peering over the shoulders of Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner and other Fairchild Semiconductor insiders as they struggled to create silicon-based integrated circuits, a fundamental building block of the modern age. —Thomas J. Misa, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota 

Anyone with an interest in the history of modern electronics–such as computing hardware–should know the history of semiconductors. With an astute selection of the key documents, together with technically and historically informed commentary, this book documents the critical first four years (1957-1961) of Fairchild Semiconductor, as the company's young engineers and scientists moved from research results to reliable practice in making silicon semiconductors. —William Aspray, Bill and Lewis Suit Professor of Information Technologies, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin