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Shockley Semiconductor

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William Shockley Moves to California



William Shockley had gone as far as he was going to go at Bell Labs. He had watched the people underneath him get promoted above him -- and with good reason. Too many top quality scientists hadn't been able to work with him . A genius he may have been, but a good manager he was not.

Shockley decided he needed a big change. The first thing to go was the car -- he traded in the fancy MG for a Jaguar convertible. Next: the job. He spent a semester at Caltech and then a year working for the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group in Washington DC., but nothing completely satisfied him. Eager to be able to run things his own way, he finally decided to strike out on his own -- get some funding and start his own company.

In August of 1955, Shockley flew to LA to spend a week with his new friend Arnold Beckman, a California chemist and businessman. Shockley shared his dream of starting a company to build cutting edge semiconductor devices. Beckman was sold on the idea and agreed to underwrite the venture.

Shockley was lured to the Palo Alto area by Stanford's provost, Fred Terman who thought that a solid research institution in the area would benefit Stanford. With a location picked out, Shockley just had to find the people. He wanted tostaff his company with only the best and the brightest. He first sought to employ his colleagues from Bell Labs, but they wouldn't make the jump to the west coast -- or perhaps they couldn't make the jump to working with Shockley again. So Shockley began traveling all over the country recruiting young scientists.

At a lavish luncheon in February of 1956, Shockley and Beckman announced the formation of their brand new lab. They only had four employees at the time, but Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory had officially opened for business. Shockley's was the first company of its kind to settle in the Palo Alto area, but over the years more and more semiconductor labs -- and the computer industries they initiated -- flocked to the area. It wasn't long before the region had earned a new name: Silicon Valley.

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