An industry analyst noted that ON Semi’'s move to get Fairchild most likely was meant to keep it out of the hands of a competitor, such as China’s Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd., which has its sights on becoming the world’s No. 3 chipmaker.
Industry analyst Christopher Rolland said Tsinghua would “probably be top of the list” of firms that ON Semi’s move was aimed to thwart. China’s Tsinghua has spent more than $9.4 billion in two years, including buying a stake in U.S. data-storage company Western Digital Corp., and with plans to invest $47 billion over the next five years.
Epicenter of Semiconductor Industry
Actually, the Fairchild story began in 1956 when Silicon Valley was just emerging. William Shockley (inventor of the transistor) opened one of the first Silicon Valley companies, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. First, Shockley tried to hire some of his colleagues from Bell Labs, but they didn’t want to move to the West Coast and work for Shockley. Instead, Shockley hired some of the best and brightest graduates from West Coast colleges.
Shockley’s core group included Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts. “The Group” became disenchanted with Shockley’s management style and turned to Sherman Fairchild’s Fairchild Camera and Instrument as a savior. This led to the birth of the Fairchild Semiconductor division in 1957. At that time, germanium was the most common material for semiconductors. Instead, Robert Noyce, who became co-founder and general manager of Fairchild Semiconductor, advocated silicon as a substrate.
Fairchild’s Noyce and Texas Instruments’ Jack Kilby had independently invented the integrated circuit. In 1960, Noyce invented the planar integrated circuit, which was patented on April 25, 1961. The first device employed resistor-resistor logic for a set/reset flip-flop that had the honor of being the industry’s first integrated circuit available as a monolithic chip.
The industry preferred Fairchild’s invention over Texas Instruments’ because the transistors in silicon planar ICs were interconnected by a thin film deposit, whereas Texas Instruments’ invention needed fine wires to connect individual germanium circuits. Plus, Noyce’s invention was enabled by a planar process developed by Jean Hoerni. Its original headquarters were in Silicon Valley, but in 1962 Fairchild moved to a facility in South Portland, Maine, that included manufacture, test, and assembly of transistors.
In the early 1960s, Fairchild R&D began development of MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor) technology, which had been pioneered by RCA and Bell Labs. The experiments led to Fairchild's development of MOS integrated circuits.
Some of the key dates in Fairchild Semiconductor’s history:
1957: Fairchild Semiconductor becomes a subsidiary of Fairchild Camera and Instrument.
1963: Robert Widlar is hired to design analog operational amplifiers. Fairchild's processes were optimized for digital circuits, so Widlar collaborates with process engineer Dave Talbert to design the op amps.
1964: Robert Widlar develops first IC op amp, µA702 followed by the µA709.
1979: Fairchild Camera and Instrument becomes part of Schlumberger, an oil field services company.
1985: Fairchild Research lab forms Schlumberger Palo Alto Research (SPAR).
1987: Schlumberger sells Fairchild Semiconductor to National Semiconductor. Sale did not include Fairchild’s Test Division that designed and produced ATE systems.
1997: Fairchild Semiconductor is spun off from National Semiconductor and reborn as an independent company with headquarters in South Portland, Maine.
1997: Fairchild acquires the semiconductor division of Raytheon Corporation.
1999: Fairchild acquires Samsung’s Power Device Division that provided the company with a complete line discrete power devices and a line of analog components.
2000: Fairchild launches the Interface and Logic Group followed by the acquisitions of QT Optoelectronics, Kota Microcircuits and Micro Linear’s power management business.
2001: Acquires Intersil’s discrete power business making Fairchild the second largest power MOSFET supplier at that time. Intersil was founded by Jean Hoerni, a founding member of the original Fairchild Semiconductor.
2001: Fairchild acquires Impala Linear Corp., which provided expertise in analog power management semiconductors.
2007: Anadigics acquires Fairchild’s RF design team.
2011: Fairchild Semiconductor acquires TranSiC, a silicon carbide power transistor company based in Sweden.
2011: Fairchild Semiconductor relocates its headquarters to Silicon Valley from South Portland, Maine.
2015: ON Semiconductor in process of acquiring Fairchild Semiconductor
Among Fairchild Semiconductor technological achievements:
1963: Dual gate device for a second generation RTL product
1964: NPN planar power transistor incorporating a thin film emitter resistor process
1964: First Op Amp, a milestone in linear ICs
1966: First standard TTL product, a quad two-input NAND gate.
1968: New Op Amp that is one of earliest linear ICs to include temperature compensation and MOS capacitors
1973: First functional device with dielectric isolation of both emitter-base and base-collector junctions
1978: FAST (Fairchild Advanced Schottky TTL) logic launched that offers a 20 to 30% performance improvement over the original isoplanar technique