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Robert Robson

  • Born: May 11, 1935, Bowman, North Dakota

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0322
Interview Dates: November 17, 2005 and December 16, 2005
Location: Le Grand, California
Interviewers: David C. Brock and Christophe Lécuyer
No. of pages: 68
Sponsor: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

  Abstract of Interview

Robert Robson begins the interview with a discussion about growing up in South Dakota. He discusses his education, his involvement with the Army, and his early interest in electronics. He also details his move to California and his involvement with the electronics industry. He describes his employment at Farnsworth Electronics Incorporated and Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. He describes his interaction with Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Andrew Grove, and several other prominent industry leaders. At Fairchild, Robson became production superintendent of the Special Products Group. He left Fairchild after working there for four years. Robson continues the interview by describing his relationship with the semiconductor industry, along with his employment at Amelco, Teledyne, Intersil, and Microma. Robson was manufacturing manager at Amelco, and went on to found Microma, where they worked on the digital watch at its beginning. After two years, Robson sold Microma to Intel and bought a thousand-acre ranch where he and his wife, Sharleen, farm nuts. Finally, he discusses his friendship with Gordon and Betty Moore, describing fishing and hunting trips they took together.


1955 B.S., Industrial Engineering, South Dakota State University
1959 Industrial Engineering, San Jose State University

  Professional Experience

Farnsworth Electronics Incorporated

1957 - 1958 Foreman

Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation

1958 - 1962 Production Superintendent

Amelco Corporations (Teledyne)

1962 - 1968 Manufacturing Manager

Intersil Corporation

1968 - 1970 Vice President of Manufacturing

Microma Corporation

1970 - 1972 Chairman and President

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Education 1

Childhood activities in South Dakota. Family background. High School. College. Army. Introduction to electronics.

Career 3

Moving to California. Farnsworth Electronics Incorporated. Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. Working with Gordon E. Moore, Robert Noyce, Andrew Grove, and other prominent industry leaders. Amelco Corporation. Teledyne Technologies. Microma Corporation. Early pioneer of digital watches. Intersil. Intel Corporation.

Interactions with Gordon and Betty Moore 20

Fishing trips. Traveling. Gordon Moore and his family. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Relationship with Semiconductor Industry People and Early Production at Fairchild Semiconductor 27

Industry leaders and coworkers. Women working and training. Special Productions Group. Transistors. Paul Henchliff and the invention of the planar process. Beginning of the microcircuit.

Competition 41

Rheem Semiconductor. Texas Instruments.

Leaving Fairchild Semiconductor 44

Amelco. Manufacturing Manager. Teledyne. Interacting with industry leaders. William Shockley. Wagon Wheel Bar. Rupe's.

Intersil 54

Vice President of Manufacturing. Gene Troyer. Bipolar. CMOS. Leaving and forming Microma.

Leaving the Electronics Industry 62

Farming. Relationship with Gordon and Betty Moore. Traveling. Fishing.

Index 65

  About the Interviewers

David C. Brock

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.

In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

Christophe Lécuyer

Christophe Lécuyer is a graduate of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and he received a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University. He was a fellow of the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology and has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Virginia. Before becoming a senior research fellow at CHF, Lécuyer was the program manager of the electronic materials department. He has published widely on the history of electronics, engineering education, and medical and scientific instruments, and is the author of Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930–1970 (2005).

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