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The Traitorous Eight Traitorously Leave Shockley Semiconductor


With William Shockley's difficult managerial style, working at Shockley Semiconductor became increasingly difficult for the researchers there. In May of 1957, just over a year after the company was founded, eight employees went to Arnold Beckman and explained that they simply couldn't work with Shockley as their manager anymore. Fearing for the good of the company, Beckman agreed to hire a new manager -- Shockley would remain as director, but his actual powers would be severely lessened.

As the search for a new manager went on, it became clear this was not a completely acceptable solution. A wedge had been driven into the company. Shockley felt betrayed by the people underneath him, yet the researchers still didn't have the leadership they wanted.

The situation came to a head two months later, when Beckman changed his mind. Realizing how destructive the move would be to Shockley's career, Beckman announced that a new manager would be hired, but Shockley was to remain director with his full powers intact -- take it or leave it.

The eight men left it. The rift seemed too large to overcome, and in September the "traitorous eight," as they became known, resigned. The next day they signed a contract for $1.3 million with a New York firm called Fairchild Camera and Instruments which was involved with missiles and satellite systems. The eight men were Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Gene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts.

Thus Fairchild Semiconductor was born -- a company dedicated to building transistors the way they wanted to, not the way Shockley decreed.

-- Crystal Fire by Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson 

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