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Founded in 1957 in a building now designated as California Historical Landmark # 1000 in Palo Alto, California by eight young engineers and scientists from Shockley Semiconductor Laboratories, Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation pioneered new products and technologies together with an entrepreneurial style and manufacturing and marketing techniques that reshaped Silicon Valley and the world-wide industry. The Planar process invented in 1959 revolutionized the production of semiconductor devices and enables the manufacture of today's billion transistor microprocessor and memory chips.
Funded by and later acquired as a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation of Syosset, New York, Fairchild was the first manufacturer to introduce high-frequency silicon transistors and practical monolithic integrated circuits to the market. At the peak of its influence in the mid-1960s, the division was one of the worlds largest producers of silicon transistors and controlled over 30 percent of the market for ICs. Director of Research and Development, Gordon Moore observed in 1965 that device complexity was increasing at a consistent rate and predicted that this would continue into the future. Moores Law, as it became known, created a yardstick against which companies have measured their technology progress for over 40 years.
Starved by the parent company for funds for investment in new production facilities and for equity to retain key employees, by the late 1960s the Semiconductor Division encountered serious problems with introducing new products and satisfying fast growing customer demand. As all of the founders and many senior employees had left the company, a new team composed of former Motorola executives, led by C. Lester Hogan, was appointed to head Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation in 1968. Hogan moved the corporate headquarters to Mountain View and the company continued to innovate in new technologies and products, including the industrys first volume production of high-performance semiconductor memory devices. Ventures into consumer products, including digital watches and video games were less successful. Revenues grew substantially but the company was never able to regain its former profitability and prominence.
Having been overtaken in sales and significance by companies started or managed by former employees (Fairchildren), including Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Intel, and National Semiconductor and buffeted by aggressive US and international competitors, French oilfield services conglomerate Schlumberger purchased the company in 1979. Unable to restore its fortunes, Schlumberger sold the assets to National Semiconductor, another company managed by Fairchildren, in 1987.
In 1997 National divested a number of mature former Fairchild product lines in a leveraged buy-out to a group of executives based in the South Portland, Maine facility. Through internal development and strategic acquisition of compatible products for power, interface, analog, mixed signal, logic, and optoelectronic applications, the reborn Fairchild Semiconductor is once again a public company (NYSE: FCS) with annual revenue of more than one billion dollars.
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||June 29, 2006