While the 1970s saw much of the research and groundwork laid for an explosion of commercial computing in the 1980s, the day-to-day business of the semiconductor industry remained focused on the military and industrial markets.
Bipolar chips were the norm; MOS was emerging. The industry would transition during the ‘70s from medium-scale integration to large-scale integration. The top three semiconductor companies in 1975 were Texas Instruments, Fairchild and National.
Consumer electronics manufacturing, which had blossomed during the television era, was migrating to low-cost Asian countries. In the 1960s the United States had about 29 TV manufacturers; by the 1970s that had dwindled to only one – Zenith Electronics Corp.
JEDEC committees focused on services rather than products. Major committees included terms, definitions and symbols (JC-10), mechanical package outlines (JC-11), government liaison (JC-13), and quality and reliability (JC-14). “Back in early 1970s, the semiconductor companies such as Fairchild or RCA would create a product and there would be no competitor,” said Mark Bird, who started working with JEDEC in the ‘70s. “So they didn’t need a product committee.” By the end of the decade, there were plenty of products, as semiconductor sales surpassed $10 billion.
Reflecting the strong influence of the military on the semiconductor market, JC-13 was a dominant committee. Its meetings often drew more than 300 attendees. Even reporters from the early trade press would cover JC-13 meetings. “What went on at that committee defined what the reliability, quality and performance characteristics were going to be for integrated circuits,” said David Sweetman, a long-time JEDEC volunteer who has served on a variety of committees. The military, in conjunction with communications companies like Bells Labs and Western Electric, were driving performance and reliability standards. “Western Electric actually had longer field life-time requirements than the military did,” noted Sweetman. “The military said they wanted 20 to 25 years. Bell Labs wanted 40 years.”
Frank Stein, chairman of JEDEC from 1968 to 1975 reorganized the structure of JEDEC committees: numbers in the teens were service committees, the 20s were diodes and rectifiers, the 30s were transistors and the 40s were ICs. Stein also published 10 guidelines of style and grammar, known as Frank’s rules, that are still used today. Although JEDEC had a style manual, it was some 80 pages long, said Sweetman. “For most of us, when we were preparing JEDEC documents, the first thing we pulled out were Frank’s rules.”
Intel introduces first commercial DRAM.
Intel launches the first microprocessor, the 4004, for Busicom Corp., a Japanese company, to power the Busicom calculator. It had 2,300 transistors and a clock speed of 400 kHz.
JEDEC creates Solid State Products Division.
Intel introduces the 8080 microprocessor, an 8-bit parallel CPU with 4,500 transistors.
MITS Altair 8800 personal computer, based on Intel’s 8080 microprocessor, starts selling by mail order in kit form.
Paul Allen and Bill Gates found Microsoft.
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs found Apple. Intel introduces 8086, 16-bit CPU with 28,000 transistors.
Semiconductor Industry Association is formed to respond to a perceived threat to U.S. electronics manufacturing base from low-cost Asian producers.
Semiconductor industry surpasses $10 billion. Motorola introduces the 16-bit microprocessor.