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Advent Calendar Day 1: Transistors

Spark Fun Electronics Via Flickr

One of the many holiday traditions around the world is an Advent Calendar. Many of you probably have one in your home or office and you eagerly open each tiny door every day of December until Christmas to see what goodies lies behind it. I don’t have the creative skills to come up with my own physical San Jose Earthquakes calendar so I will be doing a digital version on this blog. Seems fitting for the capital of the Silicon Valley. So what lies behind the first door?


Dicklyon [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

What would San Jose be without the transistor? Probably still surrounded by orchards but that’s a story for another day. Without San Jose there is no San Jose Earthquakes and without the transistor modern San Jose would be much different.

The transistor was not invented in Silicon Valley, that honor went to Bell Labs in New York, but one of the areas native sons, William Shockley, was instrumental in its development. A combination of factors including resentment about being passed over for promotions and wanting to be closer to his sick mother led Mr. Shockley to pack up his bags and head back home to the Bay Area in 1956. It was at 391 San Antonio Road in Mountain View that Silicon Valley sprang up one of it’s first high tech companies, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. A lot of the more established engineers did not want to leave the East Coast so Shockley had to convince a group of young engineers and scientists to join him in California. He assembled some of the brightest young minds in computing and soon they were coming out with new products. But the honeymoon was short-lived, Shockley turned out to be a better engineer than leader and within a couple of years eight of his top employees left the company to start their own company, Fairchild Semiconductor.

Over the decades more than 60 Silicon Valley tech companies can trace their roots to Fairchild and most of these “Fairchildren” have maintained a presence in the Bay Area, a place now called Silicon Valley and known the world over as the center of the technology world. Check back tomorrow to see what is behind the door of Day 2.