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Shockley blew it
Silicon Valley

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Shockley blew it
Silicon Valley

On working at Shockley Semiconductor:
"It was one of the most inspiring parts of my life.  It was a challenge and an excitement and it was filled with a fair amount of aggravation, I should say, as well." –Harry Sello, interview for "Transistorized!"

On being given psychological tests before being hired at Shockley Semiconductor: 
"Shockley had such a poor history of being able to get on with other technical people that he conceived of the fact that he really wasn't the one who was wrong in these occurrences.  He thought if he could sort out the people that he hired, or associated with, by some sort of a magic testing mechanism then he would screen the weirdos from the guys he could work with." 
–Harry Sello, interview for "Transistorized!"

Harry Sello

Harry Sello was recruited to work at Shockley Semiconductor company by William Shockley in 1957.  Shockley was handpicking scientists for his new company, and he called Sello out of the blue one day. Sello was working as a physical chemist at Shell Development Company.  "He just assumed I knew who he was," said Sello.  "Of course, I did." 

Sello was born in Russia on March 20, 1921 and moved to the US when he was a year and a half old.  He attended the University of Illinois for his undergraduate degree in chemistry and then received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Missouri. 

Sello said he didn't have as tough a time getting along with Shockley as some others did.  Since Sello was a chemist instead of a physicist, the two men didn't butt heads as often -- in fact it was more likely for Shockley to walk off muttering, "Eh, you chemists." 

So, when eight disgruntled scientists left Shockley Semiconductor to form a new company called Fairchild Semiconductor, Sello didn't join them.  He'd only been working with Shockley for three months, and didn't see any reason to leave.  But after another year and a half, he felt that Shockley's focus was too narrow -- Shockley had his hopes set on building a complicated four-layer diode and consequently never managed to build even simple transistors.  So, when Sello was offered a job at Fairchild with his former colleagues, he decided to take it. 

Sello spent 22 years at Fairchild.  In the early days he worked on the integrated chip with its inventor Robert Noyce.  Later on he became involved with technology transfer with companies all over the world, including Hungary, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa and Holland.  

Using that experience, Sello formed Harry Sello and Associates in 1982. The firm is based in Menlo Park, but has bases all over the world.  The company organizes and invests in international business ventures in microelectronics and related fields. 


Harry Sello talks about how Silicon Valley hasn't changed:
"How has Silicon Valley changed? Ah, this aspect of it didn't change and hasn't changed, and that is: the drive toward something ever newer newer newer. Rapid obsolecence. Rapid newness. The products that you make this year were products that you didn't think of a year ago—those are all gone; they're obsolete. So that part hasn't changed—this craze of growing and branching out with rapid obsolecence and new things taking their place, and new innovations."

Harry Sello on how Shockley blew it:
"The point is, if Shockley had stuck with it and been a leader, today he would be the ranking world's expert in the entire field of solid state electronics. He'd be the biggest there is, or there was. He had it all in his hands... and blew it."

-- Harry Sello, interview for "Transistorized!"
-- Silicon Genesis Project

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