Graham is VP of Marketing at Real Intent. He has over 20 years experience in the design automation industry. He has founded startups, brought Nassda to an IPO and previously was Sales and Marketing Director at Internet Business Systems, a web portal company. Graham has a Bachelor of Computer … More »
CMOS Pioneer Remembered: John Haslet Hall
November 6th, 2014 by Graham Bell
I still get the daily newspaper delivered to my house, the San Jose Mercury News. I came across the obituary for John Haslet Hall, one of the leading innovators at the birth of CMOS technology in Silicon Valley. I had not heard of Hall, and thought that you might also want to learn of his many wide-ranging contributions to the world of semiconductors.
Hall was an early and prolific Silicon Valley inventor. In a career that spanned over 60 years, Hall developed technology included in over 20 fundamental patents, including pioneering work in low-power CMOS integrated circuit technology. A 1992 San Francisco Chronicle article referred to Hall as, “one of Silicon Valley’s unsung innovators.”
Hall served in the U.S. Navy in the late 1950s, working with aircraft electronics development and testing, often riding in planes that were pulling target drones to collect data. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1961 and sought to apply his chemical engineering education in the nascent semiconductor industry.
In 1962, Hall met semiconductor pioneer Dr. Jean Hoerni, a cofounder of Fairchild and inventor of the planar process, the basis of today’s electronics industry. Hoerni and Hall worked on several consulting projects together, which led to Hoerni asking Hall to work for him at Union Carbide. Hall’s work there included the development of the first on-board aircraft computer made entirely of integrated circuits (ICs), used for the SR-71 Blackbird.
Hall worked as Union Carbide’s director of IC Development from 1962 to 1967, and his years there included innovations that would lead the semiconductor industry. These include the first application of thin-film technology; the first dual transistor on a single chip; and the invention of dielectric isolation technology. The Union Carbide semiconductor plant Hall built in Mountain View later became Intel’s first production facility.
In 1968, Hoerni asked Hall to join him in the formation of a new company, Intersil. As co-founder of Intersil, Hall headed R&D and achieved a breakthrough in coating silicon oxide gates with phosphorous glass resulting in the first practical metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) processes. Hall’s Intersil team also develop the first N-Channel memory chip at a time when most companies overlooked its potential.
Hall’s work in thin film resistors and CMOS technology formed the basis of Intersil’s electronic watch development for Seiko, which was chosen over a competing bid from RCA. Hall’s watch was the first successful quartz crystal watch, running on a one-volt battery that would last over a year.
Following the sale of Intersil in 1968, Hall declined Hoerni’s offer to join him in a new venture and opted to go out on his own with the backing of Seiko. Hall went to Japan to be the principal architect of Seiko’s – and Japan’s — first CMOS fabrication facility in 1970.
In 1971, Hall founded Micro Power Systems and for the next 15 years produced a string of commercial and technical successes. In one example, Hall competed with Motorola and Texas Instruments in a bid to Medtronics to create a computerized heart pacemaker. Hall’s design allowed the pacemaker to operate for 10 years without a battery replacement and enabled doctors to change its settings via remote control rather than invasive surgery.
In 1986, after a highly publicized technology transfer dispute with Seiko’s new management, still a key investor at his company at the time, Hall was forced to leave Micro Power Systems. He initiated a lawsuit against Seiko that was settled out of court in 1990. Hall in 1987 founded Linear Integrated Systems, Inc. and continued to develop new IC and specialized discrete device technology. At the time of Hall’s death, he was continuing to lead the company as chairman of the board and chief executive officer and was conducting research into further noise reduction in junction field effect transistors.
In a departure from his semiconductor endeavors, Hall in 1992 founded Integrated Wave Technologies, Inc., (IWT) a speech recognition company that employed former Soviet scientists and engineers. As a sister company to Linear Systems, IWT developed body worn speech recognition devices for DARPA, the Air Force, the Navy and the Department of Justice. These devices were highly successful in Iraq and Afghanistan operations, and IWT’s work was recognized as a significant accomplishment in the book DARPA: 50 Years of Bridging the Gap.
Hall was preceded in death by his parents, his brother William, sister Jean Anderson and son Richard Hall. He is survived by his children John Michael Hall (Sondra), Jennifer Hall, Jasmine Hall, Mary Helen Hall, and five grandchildren; Michael, William, Ozzalyn, Isabella and Sloan. Services to be held Monday, November 10, 2014 10:00 a.m. at the Calvary Cemetery, 2650 Madden Avenue, San Jose, 95116. Reception to follow at 12:00 p.m. Mariani’s, 2500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051