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The victory of the losers, or the story of the creation of FLASH memory (part1)

It would seem that in common between a mobile phone, a GPS navigator, a digital camera and a modern voice recorder. The first thought that comes is that these are digital devices that appeared on the market in the 90s of the last century. But this is only at first glance, if you dig deeper, then all these devices have one thing in common – they use Flash (flash) memory to store data. Flash memory, as a new storage device, has been rapidly developing since 1984. In this article, we will try to highlight the history of the creation and development of Flash memory.

Flash memory is a special type of solid-state non-volatile, rewritable memory. “Genetically” Flash memory comes from two electronic devices connected in one: random access memory and read-only memory. Since Flash memory refers to solid-state memory, the history of its development should be considered from the moment the development of solid-state memory devices began.

The development of solid state memory began in the 60s of the last century. The first who proposed, or rather, paved the way for the creation of solid-state memory, were engineers from Fairchild. And even more correct – its founders, the so-called “treacherous eight” – a group of young specialists who left the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in September 1957 and created their own Fairchaild company.

Reference. Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory is an American company established in 1955 with the aim of developing and manufacturing the first silicon semiconductor electronic components in the Silicon Valley, located near Stanford University, which soon became known as Silicon (Silicon) Valley. The founder and leader of this company was William Bradford Shockley, an American physicist of English descent.

William Shockley is one of the founders of the first bipolar transistor, which was introduced to the general public in 1947 by a group of physicists: William Shockley, Walter Brattain, and John Bardin, then working for Bell Labs. For their invention, subsequently, in 1956 they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “For the study of semiconductors and the discovery of the transistor effect.”

A copy of the first copy of the bipolar transistor is stored at Bell Labs (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Copy of the first instance of a bipolar transistor.

Fairchaild has continued the tradition of the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory and has focused on the creation of microminiature electronic components based on semiconductor technology.

The first leaders of this company were: Julius Blank, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Lust, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, Victor Greenich, Jean Ernie, Sheldon Roberts. On the picture – photographs 2 captured young and energetic creators of Fairchaild.

Figure 2. Fairchaild Founding Fathers

An article about Fairchaild was published in America in September 1960, in which its strategy was defined: “The main concept of the company’s activity is the desire to reduce the geometric dimensions of integrated circuits by combining them, which is impossible with the modern development of semiconductor technology. However, other parts of the computer, especially system memory, are also subject to reduction in occupied space. ”

From this event, you can count the start of the start in the development of solid-state memory, which is now used everywhere in all digital devices.

The first solid-state memory was volatile, that is, one that requires the constant presence of power to store recorded information in it. Fairchaild’s strategy laid the foundation for non-volatile memory.

In accordance with its strategy, Fairchaild not only became one of the main companies of the “Silicon Valley” of the 60s, but also a good school for future engineers and managers of other companies that later became famous: for example, Gordon Moore and Robert Neuss – founded INTEL Corporation and Sheldon Roberts, Jay Last, and Jean Ernie, ALMECO, an integrated electronics company: Victor Greenwich became a professor at Stanford University and the University of Berkeley, as well as the author of the first book on integrated circuit manufacturing technologies, Introduction to Integrated Circuits. ); Eugene Kleiner was one of the Hewlett-Packard investors, and Julius Blank was a co-founder of XiCor, an electronic components company.

The first non-volatile solid-state memory was developed in 1969 by engineers from Radiation Inc. Based on the development of diode arrays, they developed a memory of the type PROM (Programmable Read Only Memory) – Programmable, Read Only Memory.

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