No, "The Fairchild Chronicles" isn't going to be the next big date movie. But Rob Walker doesn't care. He wasn't after fame or fortune when he made the film about the rise and fall of Silicon Valley's seminal startup.
No, “The Fairchild Chronicles” isn’t going to be the next big date movie.
But Rob Walker doesn’t care. He wasn’t after fame or fortune when he made the film about the rise and fall of Silicon Valley’s seminal startup.
He did it because it needed to be done.
Fairchild, after all, was the semiconductor company that put the silicon in Silicon Valley — the company that sparked the digital revolution.
And someday, Walker says, people are going to care about that. They’re going to want to know the Fairchild story the way we want to know Gutenberg’s story or the story of Ford Motor Co.
“It will be nice someday to see who caused this revolution,” says Walker, 69, who spent a career in the semiconductor business.
It is hard to overstate Fairchild’s place in Silicon Valley. Started in 1957 by eight young engineers — including Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, Eugene Kleiner, Jean Hoerni and Julius Blank — the company was the first to mass produce the chips that led to the PC and Internet revolutions.
And in the process, Fairchild spun off dozens of other marquee companies.
The movie consists mostly of Walker’s interviews with Fairchild alums such as Moore, Jerry Sanders, Charlie Sporck, Frederico Faggin, Lester Hogan, Wilf Corrigan, Gil Amelio and Don Brooks, with still photos sprinkled through.
“A lot of craziness”There is plenty for the serious geek about transistor gates and MOS and ASIC. But there are also human stories. Stories about partying at the Wagon Wheel in Mountain View, about workplace politics and fistfights.
“Remember,” says Walker, who spent nine years at Fairchild, “this was the ’60s now, and there was a lot of craziness going on and everybody was young.”
And Fairchild was breaking the mold. It was a startup. It granted stock options and did not grant executive parking privileges. It started as a place for risk-takers.
Walker, now an Atherton business consultant, is pleased the film is finished. But he never started out to make a movie.
Shortly after Fairchild and Intel co-founder Noyce died in 1990, Walker began filming interviews with those who built the foundation of the chip industry.
The work became the Silicon Genesis Project (silicongenesis.stanford.edu) and Walker recruited the Stanford University Library to become the repository of the work.
Then last year, a group planning a Fairchild reunion asked Walker if he could put together a short, funny film to show at the event. The reunion plans fizzled, but Walker was past the point of no return.
“I got into it and I realized, `You know, I could do an actual story here,’ ” he says.
He lined up the Semiconductor Industry Association, the Corrigan-Walla Foundation and one anonymous donor as sponsors.
Walker also contributed some of his own money toward the cost of the $20,000 production, which follows Fairchild from its founding to its 1987 sale to National Semiconductor.
Most of the money raised by the sale of the $39.95 movie will go to Stanford’s library to support work on the history of semiconductors.
And just what kind of audience does Walker expect to reach?
“Very small,” he says.
Historians, academics, maybe people who write books about technology.
And who knows? In Silicon Valley? Maybe even a few engineers who are young and in love.
Mike Cassidy is a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News