"Shortly after I got there, I learned that not
everybody was happy working there. Shockley was just very difficult
to work with and the work wasn't getting on. We were not making
progress. We couldn't work in areas where we thought it would be
wise to pursue unless Dr. Shockley gave the permission. And since
it wasn't an area that he himself had suggested or thought of or wanted,
he would play it down." -- Harry
Sello, interview for "Transistorized!"
The First Year at Shockley Semiconductor
Life at Shockley Semiconductor was not smooth. William Shockley had gathered together a group of very bright young scientists. On his team were men who would go on to be some of the great inventors of Silicon Valley, and Shockley was the man who spotted them first -- luring them away from dull jobs or right out of graduate school. But once he got them, Shockley wasn't particularly good at handling them.
Mostly, his bad managing style came from his continued belief that he'd been burned by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. This time around, he wasn't about to let anything happen in his lab that he didn't know about. Unlike the free rein Bardeen and Brattain had been given, researchers at Shockley Semiconductor felt as if someone was constantly watching over their shoulders.
Shockley had also become increasingly paranoid in other ways. Once, a company secretary gashed her hand on a pin in a wall. Shockley decided that someone had done it to her on purpose and made everyone in the lab take a lie detector test. He even went so far as to call the police department to see if those he suspected had police records. As it was, one of the group finally put the pin under a microscope and realized it was the bottom half of a tack -- someone had tacked something up to a wall with a faulty pin, and the top had broken off. The whole thing was an accident after all.
As far as business went, Shockley believed the future lay in four-layer diodes. Four-layer diodes would certainly have been an improvement over transistors, but by single-mindedly focusing on inventing a whole new object instead of building something simpler, Shockley set the company back.
A year after they'd started, Shockley Semiconductor had
a disgruntled staff, but not a single marketable product.
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