Saturday, 8 December 2018

Fairchild Semiconductor's First Product

Double diffused base silicon mesa transistor 2N697, Fairchild's first product was launched commercially at the Wescon show in August 1958.

Fairchild's first product was a commercial success due to its benefits over other transistors on the market. IBM were Fairchild's first customer, using the 2N697 as a ferrite core memory driver on the XB-70 avionics contract. IBM paid $150 per transistor for the first order, 30 times the industry price. The Fairchild 2N697 was silicon, hence it had high temperature benefits over germanium and had lower power dissipation than other silicon equivalents, due to Fairchild's diffusion process.

Fairchild Semiconductor (in the late 50s and 60s) were one of the most innovative and influential companies in semiconductor history, developing the planar process and the first integrated circuits.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Former SGS-Fairchild Semiconductor Facility in Falkirk

I took this photo in 2012, and was driving past last year, and noticed the buildings had been levelled and the site cleared. When I saw it in 2012, the former Fairchild semiconductor manufacturing buildings had been incorporated into a local college.

SGS-Fairchild was a JV by SGS of Italy and Fairchild Semiconductor. They had three manufacturing sites in Europe for micrologic DTL circuits, in Catania, Rennes and Falkirk.

The Falkirk, Scotland facility was established in 1968 and closed in 1981, a major downturn year in semiconductor history. By then it was manufacturing CMOS circuits, but a little too late.

In 1967 Marconi-Elliott had their equivalent DTL diffusion plant in Glenrothes and were establishing a MOS research lab, also in Glenrothes. General Instrument had established their MOS plant also in Glenrothes around the same time, similar timing to Hughes Aircraft's MOS process development in Glenrothes. National Semiconductor were planning their bipolar wafer fab in Greenock and Motorola were planning to take advantage of the local Scottish MOS experience to establish MOS 1, their first worldwide MOS wafer fab in East Kilbride.

Carlo Bozotti, the just retired CEO of ST Microelectronics was a former operations director of this SGS site.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Philips CD-i 220 - Perhaps Also a High End CD Player ?

CD-i Player Audio Section
The Philips CD-i was the first CD based movie and game unit. Before PC CD-ROMs and the PlayStation. It was so ahead of the curve at the time. Philips was a major consumer electronics innovator.

The Crystal CS4328 was a well regarded Digital to Analog converter in the early 90s. A number of high end CD players used it, for example the Quad CD-67 from 1993. The CD-67 retailed at 795GBP. 1,539GBP in today's money ! And it used a Philips CD transport mechanism.

The CS4328 is a high performance 18 bit DAC and the AD7528s are dual 8 bit DACs. The K version of the CS4328 shown here is the -93dB typical (-90dB max) higher THD+N spec version. SNR is 120dB min. Power supply filtering is good on the device with tantalum and surface mount ceramic capacitors in parallel on the +/-5V analog supplies and +5V digital supply.

If you look at the service manual schematics there are different player options. One uses the Philips SAA7321 Bitstream DAC and the other uses the CS4328.

It looks like the AD7528s were used as Attenuators/Mixers for the inclusion of MPEG audio from the Full Motion Video cartridge accessory. At least that's what I've taken from the schematics ?

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Ediswan Semiconductors

Vintage Ediswan Mazda XB103 Germanium Transistor
EDISWAN Germanium transistor originally from the late 1950s. The gain on this device is at the very top end of the gain spec @ 105.

Edison and Swan merged in Britain in the late 1800s when Swan already held the dominant patents for the incadescent bulb.

Ediswan were one of the original companies in the Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) merger from 1929 which included British Thomson Houston. Thomson Houston in the US became General Electric.

Many British lamp companies moved into valves (tubes). Indeed the inventor of the first thermionic valve, Ambrose Fleming, worked at Edison Swan's factory at Ponders End in North London.

Siemens Brothers (the other brothers) merged with Edison Swan in the early 1950s.

It's not clear where Ediswan semiconductors were manufactured but may have been at Woolwich or Ponders End. Siemens Edison Swan had a research lab in West Road, Harlow in the late 1950s doing semiconductor research, which became the AEI Harlow Research Laboratory in 1961.

Talk about branding confusion -

Siemens Edison Swan Ltd...
An A.E.I. Company...
EDISWAN semiconductors...
And throw the Mazda brand in as well for good measure !

The transistor works, hfe=105, Vf=129mV.

AEI Semiconductors

AEI Semiconductors Avalanche Diodes
British Thomson Houston established a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Carholme Road, Lincoln, England in 1956 with a focus on power devices. In 1963 it became part of AEI, and the AEI Rugby R&D team were transferred in 1966.
In 1967 GEC acquired AEI, and in 1975 further semiconductor research activities in CMOS and RF were transferred from GEC Central Research to Lincoln.
In the early 1980s a new facility was built in Doddington Road with ICs and RF devices transferred to the new facility. Carholme Road continued to produce power devices including general purpose and fast recovery diodes, GTOs and thyristors.
Doddington Road produced standard, semi custom and full custom CMOS ICs and SOS devices for Space. RF devices included GaAs products, SAW filters and passives.
Together with Hybrid facilities in Swindon and Portsmouth the company changed its name to Marconi Electronic Devices Ltd (MEDL).
MEDL became uncompetitive in digital CMOS but the SOS and power devices remained under the name of Dynex Semiconductors. Dynex still exist at Doddington Road producing power semiconductors (now with a Chinese owner).

Westinghouse Semiconductors

2N609 : hfe=80, Vf=233mV. 2N60 : hfe=55, Vf=243mV
Westinghouse created a US semiconductor group in the early 1950s to develop high power transistors. In 1956 they established a manufacturing facility in Youngwood PA and research groups in Wilkinson and Churchill Borough.   
Westinghouse only produced low power transistors for a few years up until the early 1960s. The devices shown are the 2N60 from 1960 and 2N609 from 1963, and are gold finished.

The Youngwood facility still exists as Powerex, a JV from 1986 between the power semiconductor divisions of Westinghouse and GE.

Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company also had a UK facility which developed the first commercial rectifier in the 1920s. It became Westcode Semiconductors and is still in operation as IXYS.

Vintage British Diodes - Ferranti and STC

Ferranti ZS72 200V silicon diodes and STC CV7476 600V Avalanche diodes
The Ferranti semiconductor division in Oldham, Greater Manchester was a prominent UK semiconductor supplier in the 1960s and 1970s, and produced the world's first programmable logic arrays. Ferranti eventually became Zetex Semiconductors, until acquired by Diodes Incorporated in 2008.
STC were the first manufacturer of point contact transistors in the UK, developed at STC in Ilminster, Somerset. STC moved valve (tube) manufacturing from Woolwich to the remote Ilminster in 1940.
Volume semiconductor manufacturing was established in 1956 at the Brimar valve site in Footscray, Kent, eventually becoming part of Nortel before manufacturing ceased in 1993, when IC design was transferred to Nortel in Harlow.