Birth of the Semiconductor Industry
Uploaded on Mar 19, 2009 Silicon Valley is known worldwide as the global center of high tech innovation. In large part, the spark that ignited Silicon Valley's explosive growth can be traced back to a 50 year-old dispute that occurred in the building at 391 San Antonio Road, Mountain View, California.
In the 1950s William Shockley was considered a "God" in the electronics world. He led the Bell Labs team that invented the transistor in 1948. With funding from Arnold Beckman -- a wealthy scientist-businessman -- Shockley established the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in 1955. Shockley went against Beckman's recommendation to set up in southern California, near Beckman's own company, and established the lab in a former Quonset hut at 391 San Antonio.
Shockley's disruptive management style eventually forced eight of his young scientists to approach Arnold Beckman directly in an attempt to remove Shockley from day-to-day management. When their bid fails, the group feels they have burned their bridges and must find alternative employment. Through an East Coast banker, the scientists are introduced to Sherman Fairchild, a New York industrialist. He is intrigued by the potential of silicon transistors and agrees to support the group with an investment of $1.3 million to start a new company called Fairchild Semiconductor.
In Silicon Valley lore, the dissenting scientists became known as the Traitorous Eight - some of whom went on to bigger and better things. Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore founded Intel in 1968, now the world's largest chipmaker. More than 400 electronics, computer and chip companies in Silicon Valley can trace their genealogy back to the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory at 391 San Antonio Road.
Through interviews with historians and surviving former employees of Shockley Labs, filmmaker Craig Addison recounts the events that indirectly led to the explosive growth of Silicon Valley. The Computer History Museum thanks Craig Addison for making this film available.