Pat Haggerty And The Art Of Pervasiveness

Pat Haggerty, CEO of Texas Instruments, was one of the greatest CEOs the semiconductor industry ever had. Three fabulous initiatives show why Haggerty was so great.

In 1954, two years after the famous Bell Symposium which imparted the knowledge for manufacturing transistors, TI had become one of the leading transistor manufacturers.

Haggerty had been the prime mover for getting TI, then a geophysical instrumentation company, into transistors.

Bell had initially been reluctant to sell TI a licence to manufacture transistors, thinking the company did not have the requisite skills or knowledge to get involved.

But Haggerty persuaded Bell, paid the $25,000 fee, got the licence and the manufacturing knowledge and started up a production line at TI.

Having got this far, Haggerty figured that he needed to put transistors on the map. He wanted to make ordinary people aware of them, and he wanted to get transistors into everyday products.

Haggerty rallied his engineers and gave them a spec: a portable radio, small enough to fit in a pocket, powered by penlight batteries. They built one.

The big radio firms turned down the chance to manufacture the TI radio saying there was no market for pocket radios.

But a small radio company, Regency, took up the idea and sold more than 100,000 of the radios in 1954.

One buyer was Thomas Watson Jnr, the boss of IBM. He bought a hundred of the radios, gave them to his engineers, and encouraged them to put transistors in IBM’s computers.

It opened up a huge new market for TI.

Haggerty’s second great initiative came to him on a plane ride, in 1965, with Jack Kilby, the inventor of the IC.

In 1965 chips were being manufactured and sold in modest volumes but, like the transistor in 1954, hardly anyone knew about them.

Once again Haggerty decided that a massive demonstration of the new technology’s capabilities were required if the chip was to get into the mainstream.

The right product to demonstrate the power of the chip would be, he decided, a cheap, light, tiny pocket calculator.

In those days electric calculators cost over $1,000, ran off 120V, and weighed as much as a modern desktop PC.

Before getting off the flight, Haggerty had entrusted Kilby with the task of coming up with a portable calculator.

Within 12 months Kilby had completed the design of a four function, 2.5lb, calculator costing $150.

It took four more years, until 1971, to get it into production. In 1972 five million were sold in the US.

The pocket calculator conquered the world, and opened the world’s eyes to the potential of the chip.



  1. How wonderful it must be to have had such a man as your grandfather, Peter, he was a truly great man – and how much the semiconductor industry needs men like him today. Thanks for writing in – and what a great story about the lava lamp. When I was newly married, in the 60s, it was one of the things we bought for our first home.

  2. I was glad to come across this post, I rarely ever mention this but Pat Haggerty was my grandfather and did a lot of great things but has of yet to really receive much recognition for his accomplishments and the impact he had on the world.
    Ti was also highly responsible for ending the “Cold War” due to the weapons technology they invented.
    One other interesting note is while Pat manufactured what is surely the icon of geekdom of the late 60’s and 70, the calculator, ( or you might also consider the integrated circuit he commissioned Jack Kilby to make as more iconic) his brother manufactured and sold what could be considered the most iconic item on the other end of the spectrum (think hippies) of the same era, The Lava Lamp.

  3. John, that must have been an amazing time to be a TI-er. I never met Haggerty but would very much have liked to.

  4. My first sales job was selling TI calculators in New England in the mid-to-late 1980s. I was there when consumer products moved from Dallas to Lubbock.
    At that time it was TI Vs. HP and no one else. People got excited about TI calculators. Learning curve aka Moore’s Law paved the way for new, powerful products every couple of years at the same price and equivalent products at half the price of the predecessor.
    I’m proud to be part of the Haggerty legacy.

  5. Ha Ha, Larry, an excellent yarn.

  6. My first day at work at T. I., I placed my personal things, including a Rockwell calculator, on my desk. The next day my boss brought me a TI-59 and suggested I lose the other.

  7. Thanks Gautham, like your Dad I used to call a pocket radio a ‘Transistor’. Haggerty’s campaign to make the world aware of the transistor was amazingly successful, probably the smartest bit of techie promotion until the ‘Intel Inside’ campaign nearly 40 years later.

  8. Nice one..I hadn’t heard of Haggerty before! I sure had heard of my Dad refer to the pocket radio as a “transistor” when I was a kid, I was thinking it was some kind of a “sister” lol
    I haven’t seen the TI radio get an iconic status as the TI Calculator!

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