Philips Is World No.2 In Semiconductors

‘Closely following upon Electronics Weekly’s report that Mullard would soon announce its plans for Signetics in the UK Philips Organisation, the company now says that, from November 1st Signetics will become a Mullard sales operation, operating under the Signetics name’.

So starts a story in the Oct 29 1975 edition of Electronics Weekly.

Signetics had been started in 1961 by a group of ex-Fairchild Semiconductor engineers backed by $1 million from Lehmann Bros. Signetics introduced, in 1971, the legendary 555 timer chip designed by Hans Camenzind. For 30 years the 555 was the world’s best-selling IC. By 1970, Signetics was No.4 in the world rankings and, in 1975, the year of the EW story, Signetics was bought by Philips.

The story continues: ‘By deciding to keep the name Signetics, Philips will retain the prestige value of the Signetics organisation as one of the leaders in high-level technology.’

‘Announcing the Philips decision, Jack Akerman, managing director for Mullard, said that, with the Signetics acquisition, Philips was now number two in the league table of semiconductor manufacturers in the world.’

Happy Days indeed!



  1. Well grumpy, I expect KKR now wish they’d consulted you before they put a valuation of $11.6bn on NXP back in 2006.

  2. as a 20yr vet of Philips/NXP I have neither desire nor inclination to defend the private equity thing but that alone cannot be blamed for all our woes. From the 1975 perspective you would have to say that Philips managed the transition from valves to solid-state rather well. Outside of the Signetics acquired 555 biz I don’t know what else was sold to be no.2 in the world but bet that analog CRT TV formed the core for all kinds of discrete & IC products. And with the old vertcially integrated Philips we can call those the good old days. As the semi world went digital with uP’s & DRAM, biz that was not TV driven, that’s when things started to go awry for Philips Semi’s. We had our own DRAM fiasco which was self-inflicted. And by the time TV went LCD & digital we lost that ground big-time as well. I think some pockets of real competence still exist, eg in certain areas of RF. KKR may have provided the nails, but we gave them a good deal of the wood ….

  3. Fresher, that’s a great remark about KKR being the reverse Midas – it made me laugh out loud. It is so true. Sorry to hear the misery drags on. Good luck.

  4. Well Anonymous, the top people at Philips Corp weren’t so dumb – they saw the Wall St fools coming and sold their semiconductor division to them for a stonkingly high price – before trotting off to invest it in their vibrator business.

  5. Big Sofite, dude, you don’t have to write a long post to judge ignorance and incompetence of the top pople at Philips or its semiconductor division.
    Look, they sold semiconductor division and entered vibrator business instead.
    Great stride, way to go Philips.

  6. Happy days are indeed over.
    I did not expect that my “next experience” was going to me like that. So much contempt for the employees is hardly believable. Except if considering added value only in merge and aquisition.
    After all, why spending money on hasardous projects if you “just” have to wait for others to build new technologies and buy them.
    And the decline is not complete. New layoffs to come in UK, some business lines re-organized to ease sale. Who’s next: Automotive ? Set-top-box (previously Conexant) ?
    KKR is like Midas king but in the opposite way. They make lead out of gold.

  7. Big Softie, you’re a wise old bird.

  8. Wow….Jack Akerman – that name hasn’t popped into my conscious for many a long year. Yes, indeed, they were happy days, and also very profitable for many of us.
    How the mighty have fallen…it shows what poor management can really achieve if they keep at it long enough, and ensure a steady progression of equally inept individuals are placed in executive roles to succeed them.
    I was happily replaying through some old memories recently. I recall in my early days at Philips UK, being given a piece of jocular wisdom one day from a colleague around 35 years my senior, an upstanding and likeable Dutchman who had settled his family in the UK some years before. “Never,” he publicly lectured me with mock sternness during the morning coffee break at work, “underestimate the level of ignorance and incompetence that exists at the top of this organisation…” At the time, we all – fresh faced graduate engineers that we were, eager and willing with boundless energy, with our whole careers in front of us – hooted uproariously, as did most of the people in the lab. Whilst the remark was generally taken as a joke, some afterwards privately expressed that poor old “Van” as we all affectionately called him, had probably been around in the same job for far too long and grown somewhat miserable and cynical in his ways. Certainly, by today’s excess of political correctness, he would be publicly struck down and ostracised immediately by the “glass is perennially half full” brigade. Sadly, the passage of time has demonstrated that Van actually had it bang on the nail.
    We touched the topic of cynicism on this blog before, and I used Shaw’s quote about the power of accurate observation. What value is there in observation and accumulated wisdom? As a much older and wiser person than the young engineer who laughed at Van’s advice all those years ago, I have arrived at the following conclusions in an effort to explain what I have seen and experienced. I humbly offer them for your entertainment and consideration, and I expect dissenters to respond swiftly:
    1) There is fundamental biological drive for human beings to achieve more; to improve every aspect of our lives; to do things better; to push the leading edge; to further the accomplishments of the tribe. In a large group of people – say more than 100 – this unfortunately manifest itself as competitive group behaviour which then totally overrides all common sense, and obliterates any chance that people look back and learn from their mistakes. This is why any sizeable organisation in the high tech industry can be seen to make the same mistakes again, and again, and again.
    2) The incompetents who do reach the top and walk away unscathed from the disasters that repetitively happen on their watch are genuinely unaware of their own ineptitude and the fallout that results. Just observe the bankers who have brought us all to the brink of utter financial disaster. I watched the famous four on TV quite closely when they were summoned in front of a parliamentary committee a while back to explain themselves. There was much debate in the media about whether these jokers were really sorry or not, or were just spouting the words because they were forced into it. Whilst all four were clearly uncomfortable under such scrutiny, I detected another trait coming through, which was that they were all actually surprised to be there in the first place. I truly believe these guys still actually do not comprehend what they have done, and the level of their own capability as a factor.
    I should have taken heed of Van’s advice all those years ago…it wasn’t too late then to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or….
    Big Softie

  9. Yes indeed, if anyone, ever again, says that the private equity industry has anything to contribute to the semiconductor industry, the story of Philips/NXP should stop them in their tracks.

  10. Happy days indeed.. long gone!
    I’m sure that’ll resonate with every engineer who worked for Philips semi. It’s heart-wrenching to see the fall from glory of one of industry’s best innovators.

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