Quite unnoticed by the electronics industry and without much tribute, John H. Hall passed away on October 30, 2014.
I met Hall at an Analog Aficionados dinner a few years ago and we sat down over a drink and I got to know him a bit. I was amazed at his many accomplishments, which spanned his extensive career, not the least of which was co-founding Intersil!
If you are wearing an electronic watch, or use a hand-held calculator, pocket paging device, electronic camera, or heart pacemaker — let me introduce you to the creator of all those designs — John H. Hall. Hall pioneered work in low-power CMOS integrated circuit technology and his developments have advanced the state of electronics for the medical, military, telecommunications, and other industries.
Perhaps one of the most far-reaching developments from Hall was his Tungsten Gate Merged BiCMOS, which produces a faster, smaller footprint, lower power IC architecture with more circuit features, but at far less cost than other techniques to shrink CMOS designs. Hall devised a method that used standard 2 micron design rules and existing-low cost-2 micron fabrication facilities.
Essentially, Hall was a math and science guru and a prolific Silicon Valley pioneer and inventor with 20 significant patents spanning his 60-year career. He was a behind-the-scenes engineer who did not have the flamboyance of many of the well-known Silicon Valley pioneers of which we are all very familiar.
In 1962, John Hall met semiconductor pioneer Jean Hoerni, one of the eight founders of Fairchild and the inventor of the planar process, the basis of today's microchip technology. Hoerni invited Hall to develop ICs at Union Carbide. This was Hall's first job in what was later to be known as “Silicon Valley.”
While at Union Carbide, Hall developed an on-board aircraft computer made entirely of integrated circuits (ICs), later used for the SR-71 Blackbird US spy plane. Moving up to become the Director of IC development at Union Carbide, Hall went on to create the first application of thin film technology for on-chip resistors and the first dual transistor on a single IC and then the invention of the first dielectric isolation technology.
In 1968, Hoerni asked Hall to join him to form a new company named Intersil. The Union Carbide semiconductor plant Hall built in Mountain View, Calif., later became Intel's first IC production facility.
Hall's work with thin film resistors and CMOS technology brought to fruition Intersil's electronic watch development for the Japanese company Seiko, in which Intersil won in a competing bid with RCA. Hall's watch was the first successful quartz crystal device that ran on a one-volt battery that could last more than a year. US companies were skeptical and did not take this seriously. The rest is history.
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