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Silicon Valley | Timeline

Early Silicon Valley

William Shockley points to a diagram of the junction transistor. Courtesy: Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc.

December 23, 1947
William Shockley and his team at Bell Laboratories complete the first successful amplifying semiconductor, the transistor. The transistor was a major advance and paved the way for the invention of smaller and cheaper electronic devices.

Young physics student Robert Noyce is introduced to the transistor while studying at Grinnell College under professor Grant Gale.

The population of Santa Clara Valley is roughly 290,500.

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Robert Noyce in a student lab at Grinnell College, Courtesy: Grinnell College

October 1951
Stanford signs its first lease for space in its industrial park to Varian Corporation. These long-term, inexpensive leases encouraged entrepreneurship. Stanford soon leases space to more companies, including Hewlett-Packard, General Electric, and Lockheed.

The transistor radio is invented, quickly becoming the most popular communication device the world has ever seen.

Aerial view of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and Hewlett-Packard on the Stanford University campus, Courtesy: Sunnyvale Historical Society

September 1955
William Shockley founds Shockley Semiconductor Laboratories as a division of Beckman Instruments.

William Shockley and two Bell Labs colleagues are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect."

Nobel Prize winners William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain, Courtesy: AT&T Archives

June 1957
Eight Shockley Semiconductor scientists and engineers hold a secret meeting at San Francisco's Clift Hotel to discuss forming their own firm, under the leadership of Robert Noyce. The men would come to be known as the "Traitorous Eight."

The "Traitorous Eight", Courtesy: Magnum/Wayne Miller

Sherman Fairchild, owner of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, puts up $1.3 million to start Fairchild Semiconductor and retains the option to buy out the new subsidiary.

October 1, 1957
After defecting from Shockley Laboratories, the Traitorous Eight -- Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Sheldon Roberts, and Robert Noyce -- start Fairchild Semiconductor.

October 4, 1957
The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. This event triggers the beginning of the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

July 1958

Fairchild Semiconductor fulfills its IBM contract order for 100 silicon transistors, priced at $150 each, 30 times the going rate for the less-sturdy standard germanium transistor. Unlike Fairchild Semiconductor's silicon transistors, germanium transistors functioned poorly at high temperatures, which made them ill-suited for use in missiles and aircrafts.

July 29, 1958
President Eisenhower establishes NASA when he signs the National Aeronautics and Space Act.

Dr. Wernher von Braun with Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower at dedication of Marshall Space Flight Center Courtesy: Getty

October 1958
NASA begins operations. By 1960, NASA's budget tops $400 million a year.

Fairchild Semiconductor outbids Texas Instruments to provide transistors for the Minuteman nuclear ballistic missile guidance system.

January 1959
Jean Hoerni, a Fairchild Semiconductor scientist, patents the planar process, a radically new transistor design with a protective layer of silicon oxide mounted on top of the transistor. The planar process increases production, reduces costs, and makes a much more reliable product.

Computer History Museum Photomicrograph showing the first planar transistor built by John Hoerni

Fairchild Camera and Instrument exercises its option to buy out its subsidiary. Each founding member of the company receives $300,000 ($2 million today) in stock options.

March 1959
Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments patents the "solid circuit," an entire circuit on a singular semiconductor chip. The solid circuit surpasses all competition.

July 30, 1959
Robert Noyce, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, files a patent for the integrated circuit. Unlike Kilby's design, this uses no wires, making it much more practical for mass production.

March 1961
Fairchild Semiconductor develops its first working integrated circuit, or microchip.

A single silicon microchip, Courtesy: Intel

May 25, 1961
President John F. Kennedy announces the space program, with the ultimate goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him to Earth.

Texas Instruments files suit against Fairchild Semiconductor for patent interference, claiming ownership of the integrated circuit concept.

By 1964, Fairchild Semiconductor produces more than 100,000 integrated circuits for the Apollo space program.

Spring 1965
Fairchild Semiconductor slashes prices. Microchips now sell for $1, which is less than they cost to produce. The lowered price leads to an increase in demand, eventually boosting profits significantly

Fairchild Semiconductor stock becomes the fastest growing on the New York Stock Exchange.

The suit between Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductor is settled with an agreement to share licensing of the integrated circuit.

March 1967
Noyce's right-hand man and Operations Manager Charlie Sporck leaves Fairchild Semiconductor and is appointed President and CEO of competitor National Semiconductor.

Intel's first 106 employees outside of the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley. Noyce and Moore are standing in front. Courtesy: Intel

Summer 1968
Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore resign from Fairchild Semiconductor and start Intel.

Spring 1969
Intel wins a contract from Busicom to create specialized microchips for a new calculator.

July 20, 1969
American astronauts land on the moon, an achievement made possible by Fairchild Semiconductor technology. The integrated circuit-based Apollo Guidance Computer (ACG), which was mounted on board both the Command Module and Lunar Module, helped navigate and control the spacecraft to the moon.

The population of santa Clara Valley grows to just over one million.

January 11, 1971
Journalist Don Hoefler first uses the name "Silicon Valley" in a series of articles in the Electronic News.

Intel employee Ted Hoff, inventor of the first microprocessor, Courtesy: Intel

Invented by engineer Ted Hoff, Intel introduces the 4004, the first microprocessor, which contains more than 2,000 transistors. Before the microprocessor, machines that performed the same functions were the size of refrigerators. Described as "a computer on a chip," the microprocessor is the fundamental component of all digital equipment we use today.

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