Fairchild Turns 50

1 min read

This month Fairchild Semiconductor celebrates 50 years in the business. Executives and engineers from Fairchild founded many of the most influential technology firms in Silicon Valley, including microprocessor rivals Intel and AMD, reconfigurable chip leader Xilinx, and one of the best-known venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The company was founded by the ”Traitorous Eight”--a group of engineers who abandoned William Shockley's semiconductor firm en masse. Among the eight were Gordon Moore, whose eponymous law has been a guiding force in the chip industry; Robert Noyce, the co-inventor of the integrated circuit; and Jean Hoerni, the inventor of the process that made silicon the dominant semiconductor [look for a profile of Hoerni in our December issue].

Many of the companies these eight and others from Fairchild founded are still going strong, while some have been acquired by larger firms, and some have simply faded away. Fairchild itself was purchased by National Semiconductor, of Santa Clara, Calif., in 1987. Ten years later it was spun out as an independent company, focused on power-related chips and headquartered at one of Fairchild's original manufacturing sites in South Portland, Maine.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

Keep Reading ↓Show less