Poaching, by Charlie Sporck

National Semiconductor was “essentially bankrupt” in 1967 when Charlie Sporck took it over, Sporck recounts in his book SPINOFF.

Nonetheless the company had a great asset – the Bob Widlar and Dave Talbert partnership in developing the industry’s best analogue ICs.

“With Widlar and Talbert involved, National could carve out a good position in linear circuits,” recounts Sporck.

“I proposed a plan wherein I would bring some competent people from Fairchild with me,” adds Sporck.

The plan worked only too well. Fairchild Semiconductor’s parent, Fairchild Camera and Instrument – was siphoning off money from the semiconductor operation to blow on unprofitable investments in other areas. The semiconductor men were fed up.

“When we needed additional experienced personnel, we could reach into the Fairchild organisation and take anyone we wanted,” says Sporck.

Fairchild threatened to sue if they poached any more people.

After that, “when people came to us and said they would rather be at National than Fairchild, we told them to get a job somewhere else for a while and then come to us. It was our little “workaround” for the threat, of legal action.”

It worked well.

We caught up with Fairchild in total sales within seven or eight years,” writes Sporck, “and then we really zoomed past them.”



  1. Anon, This is a statement from Tait Technologies who did the LED paddles for the Olympic opening ceremony: ‘We developed the concept of Landscape Video for the Olympics ceremonies events. By producing over 70,500 pixel tablets for the entire stadium seating grid, video emerged from its two dimensional world to become three dimensional, and the audience were integrated into the show in one of the world’s largest video screens. Each hand held video tablet contained nine LED pixels, all of which could be individually programed and viewed at angles of 180 degrees horizontally and vertically. Tablets are IP65 rated as well as being EC and EMC compliant. Tablets were installed systematically, with all tablets attached to a recyclable plastic holder and cabling connected to a control rack in each section. The structure runs on the Barco FLX system and large scale pixel mapping was carried out by Immersive/Avolites. Landscape video opens unlimited opportunities for the use of this type of large scale LED technology in stadium video displays and architectural environments. Content for the pixel tablet opening ceremony was provided by Crystal CG International.’

  2. I see from the Sunday Times today that the LED panels on ‘most of’ the seats which each had nine LEDs on were created by Tait Technologies, and the images were manipulated by Crystal CG. They say they’re going to ‘crank it up’ for the closing ceremony. Will try to find out more.

  3. I wasn’t there, anon, but I’ll have a look at it

  4. Hi David;
    Please could we have a story/ design tutorial about the LED paddles used to such great effect at the Olympic Opening Ceremony?
    It appeared to me like a great engineering/parallel communication feat. I thought perhaps ZigBee devices connected in a huge p2p style ad-hoc network?
    Would be interesting to know who did it!

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