The East Coast Semiconductor Industry

It was only the personal predilection of William Shockley that made California the capital of the silicon industry.

Before Shockley Semiconductor, the American semiconductor industry was based on the East Coast, along Rout 128 near Boston.

Here could be found Clevite, Sylvania, Transitron, CBS Electronics, Sprague, Tungsol, Philco with AT&T and RCA in New Jersey and GE in New York.

These were the leading companies which drove the semiconductor industry from a $5.1 million industry in 1954 to a $50 million industry by the end of the decade.

And there, in the East, if it hadn’t vbeen for William Shockley, the industry would have stayed.



  1. There is a fascinating book by Anna Saxanian on this — why Silicon Valley took off, and Route 128 flatlined. In 1954 the Valley was a good place to farm apricots, but not much more…
    She has two reasons:
    In the East the role model was IBM, with a job for life and if you left you were scum, and no-one would speak to you.
    In the West the exemplar was HP – people could & did leave, and if so Bill or Dave would buy them a beer: they were a potential customer, supplier or partner. And even competition was good.
    The history of Shockley, Fairchildren & “traitorous 8” embellishes around that theme, of course!
    The second reason was immigration.
    She somewhat flippantly described it as “In Boston INS office you got a visa if your name started with O’…; in San Francisco you got one if it started with Dr….”
    Both had great universities but if you look at the diversity and nationalities and talent in Bay Area compared to MA you can see the point.
    Sadly, the UK seems to have copied MA more than Bay Area in those two respects.

  2. Texas is also hardly California, but Samsung will be the fourth company (that I know of) with one or more fabs in Texas. From what I understand, they will also have the third 300mm fab in Texas. We are indeed west of the east coast but (thankfully) we are not California!

  3. Wow, $50 million during that decade was big already!

  4. Idaho is hardly California.

  5. One hold out remains: Analog Devices in Norwood, MA, but indeed the California Dream has long lured all the other semis companies to the West.

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