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Silicon Genesis Oral Histories of Semiconductor Technology

About Silicon Genesis

The first commercially produced silicon transistor was conceived on San Antonio Road, Mountain View, California, right in the center of Silicon Valley. It was created by a group of brilliant scientists and engineers at Shockley Semiconductor, led by William Shockley, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956. All too soon, in 1957, the group broke up and spread out across the Valley to pursue their ideas by forming new semiconductor companies. The most notable at that time was Fairchild Semiconductor, which was formed by eight of the Shockley semiconductor employees, led by Dr. Robert Noyce.

The region now universally known as Silicon Valley is widely accepted as the international center of technological innovation and technology-based industries of the Information Age. Semiconductor technology made this possible and continues to be the enabling technology of the 21st century, much as the steam engine enabled the industrial revolution in the late 1800s.

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The Silicon Genesis project was the inspiration of Rob Walker (1935-2016), a Silicon Valley native and Silicon Valley educated electrical engineer, who was involved with semiconductors since the 1960s at Fairchild, Intel and as a founder of LSI Logic. Rob recognized that if the remarkable stories of these pioneers were not captured for the benefit of future public access, they would be untold and lost forever. In 1995, Rob began a project with the Silicon Valley Archives in the Stanford University Libraries to record oral history interviews focused on the history of the semiconductor industry. The resulting video recordings and interview transcripts are the basis for the Silicon Genesis collection at Stanford, and therefore wil be forever available for researchers and others with an interest in this history.

Rob's active engagement in the preservation of Silicon Valley's history began in the early 1990s. He was the author of Silicon Destiny: The Story of Application Specific Integrated Circuits and LSI Logic Corporation (Milpitas: C.M.C. Publications, 1992; available at walkerresearch.com). Transcripts of the interviews he conducted and much of the documentation he gathered for research on this book have been deposited in the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, and are available to researchers. Silicon Genesis followed closely on the heels of Silicon Destiny as an extension of Rob's efforts to document the history of Silicon Valley's semiconductor industry. Between 1995 and 2012, Rob served as lead interviewer for Silicon Genesis; after his death, he was succeeded by industry veteran Rob Blair, who continues to carry out interviews for the project.

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Rob Walker
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Rob Blair

The Silicon Valley Archives in the Stanford Libraries provide access to several collections related to the Silicon Genesis oral histories. These include the Rob Walker Papers, the Silicon Destiny collection of oral history cassette tapes, videos, and transcripts assembled for Rob Walker's book, and the Silicon Genesis collection, which includes physical media for many of the interviews in the series featured in this exhibit. For further information about access to this collection, contact the Department of Special Collections in the Library.