Interview with Lester
January 24, 1995
RW: This is Rob Walker. Today we're visiting with Les Hogan and his wife Audrey at their home in Atherton, California. Les was at Bell Labs with Shockley and was an associate of his. Then he went to Motorola where he was general manager of the semiconductor operation and growing the business many fold. Finally, he was recruited by Bob Noyce to become president of Fairchild when Bob went off to start Intel. So that Les has been in the semiconductor industry since its inception.
And I'm here with C. Lester Hogan [Lester C. Hogan]. We're filming this interview on January 24, 1995 at Les's home in Atherton, California... it's part of Stanford's Silicon Genesis project.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Les. Let's start off, can you tell me a little bit about your childhood.
LH: My childhood?
LH: Yeah. I can tell you about my childhood. I grew up in Great Falls, Montana. I had three sisters, I was the only boy in the family, and as such I had a very special place in the family situation. Even today, all of my three sisters are still alive and if they have a problem they call me, they don't call each other. You know, if there's something they want to... that weighs heavy on them...
We had a very happy life. Father who worked for the railroad--Great Northern Railroad--and we were...he always had a job during the Depression, that period of time. I had a wonderful... place... Montana is a wonderful place for a boy to grow up. I'm not certain it's that good for girls because things that I learned to do girls weren't much interested in. I'd take the rifle out when I was nine years old and head out on the prairie, killing all the rattlesnakes I could find, you know, things like that. I don't think there were very many boys who had the opportunity to do something like that. [Laughs.] I was busy doing things of that situation.
I don't know how or why it happened the way it did with me at home because I was kind of a chubby sort of a boy when I grew up... not unlike you sitting there, you know... [Laughs] that kind of thing. Well be that as it may, I was a straight "A" student in junior high and high school but the people loved me, and I don't know why. I got elected president of the junior high school of two thousand five hundred people, I got elected as president of the... my classes in high school, and in my junior year I was president of the entire student body. It was just the thing... I liked everybody... maybe it was because I lust loved everybody that I knew and they reciprocated on that. And I think it helped to develop the kind of guy that I am.
As you and I were talking before we started this machine here that's looking at me, that kind of thing, that we believe that if you want people to work for you and do a good job you had to somehow make them like you. Somehow I picked up that capability and I don't know how or why... I can't explain it.
RW: Well, then you went to Montana State...
LH: Yeah, I got my bachelor's degree at Montana State University, simply. I had many opportunities. I had MIT trying to get me to come there but my father couldn't afford it. He couldn't afford to even pay my way to get over to MIT. So, I went to Montana State, it was a superb school at that time. I don't feel that I was... that it didn't go along well. I had the same experiences at university. I was voted into just about everything there was to be voted into and, at the same time, I was a straight "A" student at Bozeman, Montana.
I got my degree in chemical engineering in 1942 and decided to join the US Navy rather than go out into industry. I did that and... actually, it was almost as if some guardian angel was guiding me in this decision. The reason for that is that I went in as an officer... I was trained as an officer. It takes four months, at least it used to take four months, to take a greenback like I was and turn him into an officer before they'd turn him loose. And I had four months of training to learn how to be an officer and then they sent me down to Chesapeake Bay where the Bell Telephone Laboratory was doing the job of building the acoustic torpedo, the torpedo that followed the sound of the ship that you wanted to blow up and you didn't have to aim it so accurately.
And I got to know the Bell Labs people very well because I was the officer in cHRGe of a torpedo testing barge where the Bell Labs people would come every day, you know, and I would supply the necessary capability to test the torpedo and see what was wrong and they'd go fix that and come back and away we would go. And I... having had an engineering degree, I loved engineering, and so I took one of them torpedoes apart so I know I would understand it. I just took it apart and put it back together then... [Laughs] thought I had a job, but... it had an influence on the Bell Labs people because they finally decided it was good enough to go out into the field, an executive vice-president of Bell Labs came to me personally. I lived on the barge, I didn't live on the base that I was assigned to and he said "Les, we're going to now tell the Navy that we're ready, they can take 'em out but we would like to you to go with it. We don't trust most of these sailors that we've been involved with and we would very much like to have you be the fellow that takes our torpedoes out to the Pacific Fleet and teach them how to run it right so they don't blow themselves up."
I said, "I'd love to do it, you know, but I don't set down the law." And the answer was: "They'll do it for us." And they went to see the captain under who I was serving and he called me in and explained to me that the Bell Labs people wanted me to do it, would I do it? I said, "Sure, I'll do it." And I went out in the Pacific and spent the time teaching submariners how to use this new device and to blow up the other ship instead of yourself, which you could do.
RW: Well, that was a period in time when the United States was seriously behind the Japanese in...
RW: ... and the Japanese had the Long Lance torpedo and it wasn't, I guess till '43 or '44 that we got our hands on one of them and realized how good they were...
LH: Oh, they were good. We had ninety-three percent hit ratio, the whole fleet did, with the acoustic torpedo. It almost... it couldn't miss. If you did it right, you couldn't miss the ship. You had to hit... it would go right to it. And the Japanese didn't know such a thing existed, or people were thinking about it even, and they didn't know what the hell was going on. They really were not in position to understand "How did they do that? What is going on?"
And number two, it's the first time that a submarine had a defense. With the old torpedo, all you did was go as deep as you could, and be as quiet as you could, so that they could have trouble finding you. And then if you're down far enough, they'd thrown the bombs out that are gonna blow you up, you know. And what you do is turn right or turn left and go as fast as you could to get out of the way and... they were playing a game with each other. But you couldn't surface and you had no weapon to go after the ships that were trying to destroy you. With the acoustic torpedo, it didn't hurt where you were, you just shot it out and told it to blow up that son-of-a-gun and it did, you know?
RW: So, you made quite an impression on one of the Bell Labs senior people?
LH: It turns out I wish I could remember his name, he was an executive vice-president of Bell Laboratories. I had not met him until I was in the Pacific and a group of Bell Labs scientists came out to see what I was doing wrong. They just assumed that no naval officer could get the thing right under any circumstances [laughs] and so they came out to see me and they were amazed because the ninety-three percent hit ratio was never... wasn't even in the dreaming of torpedoes in the past and the torpedoes that we used, in the first part when the war started, we had almost zero because they were smashed before they blew up.
With the acoustic torpedo we had ninety-three percent hit ratio during that period, from then until they didn't have any boats left. There was nothing to shoot at anymore at the end.
RW: So, did this executive VP...
LH: Oh yeah.
RW: ... was he impressed and make you a job offer?
LH: Actually, they stayed for about a week and I took 'em around, showed them everything, took 'em out on submarines myself and we fired at boats that we had floating out there that we didn't care about whether they got blown up or not. When it was time for them to go home, this executive vice-president came into my office and said: "Les, what are you going to do when the war is over?" I said: "I think I'm gonna go back and get a doctor's degree. I kind of like this better than chemical engineering, I think that's what I want to do."
And he said "Here's my card. Don't ever look for a job, you have a job whenever you want a job and it turned out that's what I did. I went to Lehigh University when I got out of the Navy. I got a Ph.D. in Physics, called up my so-called friend and I said: "This is Les Hogan, do you remember me?"
And he said "I sure do and I presume you're coming to pick up that promise I made to you about five years ago out in the Pacific Ocean. And I said "That's exactly what it is!" And he said: "Well, tell me about yourself." I said: 'Well, I just finished my doctor's degree, I finished my thesis, I'm ready to go."
He said "You gotta a job." He said "When can you come over?"
So that's where I went.. to Bell Labs. I arrived there in early 1950.
RW: Well now, you were actually .. had an invention after just three months at Bell?
LH: Yeah, the microwave gyrator, isolator and circulator, and it was, again, it was a luck... it was more luck than brilliance. A mathematician, he wasn't a physicist or an engineer, he was a mathematician, he was playing around with Maxwell's theories and he came to the conclusion that there was still was yet another device.. . should exist, but no one has ever had such a thing, and that is it did not violate Maxwell's theorem. He just took Maxwell's theorem, he said, "If it's right and if it's compete, then there must be another circuit element that we don't have." And the circuit element is one that did not have... I'm trying to get the right wording there... it was a device that was non-reciprocal. That is, if you think of it in terms... in fact, the fellow who put out the first paper on this, that it ought to exist, did it in a... just a ordinary device, you know, at low frequencies and what have you. He didn't now how to build it but he said, "Such a thing can and should exist, and I haven't found a way do it, but it is there."
Well, I got there... when I got to Bell Labs, the fellow I reported to said, "Look, you're young, I think you ought to spend the first two weeks just wandering around the laboratory and getting acquainted with everybody. Find out what we're doing."
And there were a lot of things Bell Labs was involved in then. In 1950, the DOD wouldn't let them release the information and it wasn't published at that time, which was a damn fool thing to do. But, you know, the DOD doesn't always do everything brilliantly.
Be that as it may, they did come and I went out and I got acquainted with almost every department in Bell Laboratories and I spent two weeks getting these things... thing... and in the meantime when I was just looking at things, I happened to pick up one of Phillips... Holland... own magazine, Phillips research magazine and it was in here that they published the idea that such a thing could exist and it suddenly [snaps fingers] came to me, because I had this information that a lot of people in Bell Labs didn't have. Scientists have a ... they tend to worry all day long about their little sector that they're inventing and they don't give a damn about Mr. B over there, you know, "he's doing his job and I don't care about it." But I was the kind of guy... I wanted to know what everybody was doing.
When I did, I started putting these things together and said, "Hell, I can build that damn thing that that guy said should exist... I can put ferrite devices in a microwave system and the crazy thing will be non-reciprocal. It was stunning and people and were just absolutely stunned by the existence of the thing.
But you know to me... I think if anyone else at Bell Labs would have roamed around like I did for two weeks, [snaps fingers] they would immediately have put A to B to C to D and it's obvious, you know. But, I was lucky I guess...
RW: And these devices are still used today...
LH: Oh, absolutely. There isn't a microwave device in existence today that doesn't have... now let me say something about it. It's a hell of a lot better than it used to be. Just like the transistor [laughs]. It is smaller and you get more of them on a chip than you used to and the device that I proved was a micro-waveguide that was about twelve inches long, you know, and it was in x-band. Today you can get it in any band you want, up to ten times the frequency that I ... didn't exist in that time of course... and they can be no bigger... the whole thing that I had twelve inches long I could put it in half of my thumb... the whole thing can be put in something that size.
RW: But having invented something like that in just three months must have made you quite a reputation there at Bell.
LH: Well, it did and again another executive vice-president came down to see me about a week later, after I had published it within the Laboratory, and he said: "I don't want you to spread this around because in my lifetime, this is the first time that we've made an offer like we're making for you. Starting next month, your salary's doubled. [Laughs.] So, I guess I made an influence on him anyway.
RW: Well now, Schottky [Shockley] was there at Bell Labs...
LH: He was right around the corner from me and, in fact, I went to see him to help me with some of the mathematics of the damn thing, you know. Let me tell you a little story about that because I went to see Bardeen and Bardeen is more of an isolated sort of a man who is ... he's got 110% of his thoughts on what he's doing, you know. And when I went in and explained to him what I was... wanted to do but I needed some help from a guy smarter than I was and could he help me through some of this mathematics? And he said, "Les, I love ya and I hope you do well, it sounds interesting, but I am up to my neck in the problems that I'm working on and I can't do it."
So I said, "Well, I'll go over to Bill Shockley..." you know, "I'll go talk to him." I went into Shockley's office, told him the same thing. He got excited! He said: "Les, that's amazing." He said: "Let me go up." He stopped doing what he was doing. He was sitting at his desk doing mathematics on something--I don't even know what he was working on at the time--he jumped up and he spent two-and-a-half hours going through and helping me with the mathematics of the whole darned thing and it all held together, you know. And all he got was a little note at the bottom of... when I published it, that he helped me.
RW: Now, had they invented the transistor at that time.
LH: Yes, they had. But the only one that had ever been built up to that time was the point-contact transistor. Because one needed pure germanium and/or pure silicon in order to build a transistor and we didn't have... we didn't know how at that time.. when I got there, they didn't know how to make it that pure. Everybody in the chemical departments were working on that problem and it didn't take long. About, if I remember rightly, the first germanium transistor--PNP and NPN device--I think it was about 1951 or '52. I know... I had been there for at least a year-and-a-half when they built the first working transistor.
RW: Now, when did they get the Nobel Prize... for that?
LH: In 1956, I think, wasn't it? Yeah I think it was, 1956-'57.
RW: And three people got...
LH: Yeah, all three of 'em.
RW: And that was Schottky [Shockley]...
LH: Bardeen and Brattain. They all three, they all get credit. Well you know now, [laughs] you want the whole story?
LH: Well, then it's an interesting story and I loved all three of those people, I did, I want you to know that... they were all very fine people. What happened was, the first device that they happened to accidentally come upon, and they did, they were doing something else... when suddenly Brattain observed the fact... he had two electrodes on a small single crystal of germanium. He had them very close together and, of course, the base was connected to the system too. And he would put a signal in this wire and he noted that there was more power coming out on the other side, on that one. And he tried it again and again and again because he couldn't believe it.
So he went to get Bardeen and he came down and by that time, you know, it was about... it was in the evening of Christmas Eve... or two days before Christmas, or something like that, you know. And Bardeen came down, he played with it, looked at the dials and said "My God, you've invented a transistor!" Point-contact transistor, of course, and they went and got Shockley, Shockley came in and he looked over it and, of course, he was "the boss." And he supplied all the equipment to them, he encouraged them, you know, he gave them all the money they needed and he was the one person who really believed in his heart that we were going to build a tran... he didn't know the word "transistor," it hadn't been invented yet... but he was going to build an amplifier out of germanium and/or silicon
He didn't know how to do it. But he knew in his heart and in his soul that it could be done. And when they came in and showed him this thing, and they... at that time, they were so thrilled about it and so excited that they didn't take time to even think about the possibility of a PNP or an NPN type of transistor. Shockley went home and started working on that. He immediately... when they showed him that point-contact, he said: "That's the answer to everything," but he didn't explain it all to them. He really didn't. He went home and he wrote that paper that he published. It was published to the public in 1948, in June of '48, but it was passed on to the Bell Labs people in January of 1948... forty... yeah, '48.
They... and he finished this paper and he published it throughout the laboratory, including his people, but they didn't know that he had done this until they got their piece of paper like everyone else at Bell Laboratories.
RW: Were they upset?
LH: Were they upset?
LH: Ah, yes. I could use stronger language...
...but we'll just say they were upset. And, you know, the thing is Shockley'd invented it, there's no doubt in my mind about that, and he was a brilliant man, absolutely, one of the most brilliant men I ever knew. But he wasn't nice to his people. You know, the average guy as a boss man would go and guide them into helping so that... they do it, but when the time came to tell the public, the Bell Labs headquarters decided that, you know, we can't separate... all three of them contributed. And whether what Shockley did was nice or not nice, as scient... as engineers that are trying to make money here and... setting the world on fire, we have to include all three of them on equals. And so they sort of forced it on the people who made out the ah...
RW: The Nobel...
LH: ... the Nobel prize.
RW: Yeah, OK, Let's break now. We gotta change...
LH: Change things...
[Video dropout approximately 0.5s]
RW: Well, Shockley became, certainly later in life, a very controversial fellow.
LH: Yes, for other reasons and not... that didn't involve just the transistor. But that says something about Shockley. Shockley doesn't care how many people are hurt as long he tells the truth about the system, you know. And, he's a scientist from beginning to end and people don't count.
Now, I loved the guy because he helped me when I wanted help. He was very excited about it. He urged me to not give up if I failed the first time, that he believed that something like that would occur. And if I didn't do it, someone else was gonna do it pretty fast, you know. So he wasn't all bad but when he had a brilliant idea of his own, he went and did it all by himself and he was the boss man over that whole area of Bell labs and he was a manager, if you like, of the research part of that effort. He didn't think of people and how people would feel, you know.
And as a result, they hated him those two, Bardeen and Brattain. I happened to love him, you know, and I loved him because he helped me. [Laughs.] But he didn't care. He had something more exciting to do and he wasn't going to stop to do my problem completely. He did, you know, for a few hours, a couple, three hours he spent with me, you know, going through it but then he, you know, he'd ask me if he saw me in the hall: "ya got the thing goin' yet?" And I said: "Not yet, but I'm gonna have it next week."
Because I had to build all these damn parts--the microwave parts, you know--that had different shapes than you could buy. I had to get mechanical people to build these pipes for me and the first time I didn't think to tell them:, "When you solder these pieces together, I don't care how much pa... stuff is sticking out when you're soldering, it on the outside, I don't care about the outside, the inside's gotta be very smooth, you know, or you get reflections! " [Laughs.] So we had to make it over again and I said, "That's no damn good... you gotta have it as smooth as a baby's behind." You know, when you put it on.
RW: Now, did Shockley leave while you were at Bell to start his own company?
LH: No, I left before he did. I left before he did and I got an offer--Gordon McKay Professor at Harvard University--and I left in 19... when did we go to Harvard, Audrey? '53? '53...1953. And Shockley left about a year or two after that to set up his operation out there.
RW: Which, the "treacherous seven," including Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore. All worked for him and they couldn't stand working for him and that's how Fairchild got started.
LH: Yeah, that's right. That's true and what you're saying is true and I won't deny that fact. But, you know, when a man is that brilliant, you gotta give him some leeway, you know. He did things that you and I wouldn't do. At least, put it this way - we would have done it in a different way, you know. We would take our people and make them part of the answer, you know. He didn't do it that way. If he got the idea, it was his, why should he give it to you? You know?
RW: Well, I think we can forgive the inventor of the transistor quite... quite a bit. Well anyway, so you taught at Harvard from '53 to '58 then?
LH: Yes. I did and I had nine graduate students that I took from zero... well not zero... I mean, they came in with a bachelor's degree and I took 'em to the Ph.D. Nine of them, and nine of them turned out to be extremely successful people. I had job offers once a month for all of my period at Harvard, turned every one of them down except Dan Noble who worked at... he was an executive vice-president of Motorola and he wouldn't take "no" for an answer. He just kept after me and... Dan Noble was a very unusual guy. He invented the walkie-talkie in World War II for Motorola and they produced, during World War II, 100% of all the walkie-talkies that were built in World War II.
The reason he was able to do that is that he knew that frequency modulation was a great idea, a brilliant idea. A paper was published, and I don't remember... I tried to find it the other day and I can't find it and I used to have it. In 1930... around 1935, 1936, some scientists at ... the laboratory... of... you gotta help me ... down there in...RCA Laboratories. They published a paper saying that Armstrong... in my words, 'cause I don't know all the details of this, I know it happened. But they decided that these... five, I think there were five authors of that paper in 1935 or '36, saying that, "Armstrong is wrong, there are no... FM has no special capability... that you can't do better with AM." And they made a mistake, there were two major mathematical errors.
Now you'd think with five people writing the damn thing, that one of them would've read it ...before they published it, you know! [Laughs.] ...and found the error. But they didn't. And do you know, it turned everybody off. Except Dan Noble. Dan Noble was a professor at the University of Connecticut at the time and he said: "My gut tells me those guys are wrong." So he got the paper and read it carefully and found the errors and didn't tell anybody, except himself.
And he started building FM transmitters and receivers while he was a professor at the University of Connecticut and he built the first... and, actually what he did... he built them for the students at the University of Connecticut and he would build little FM receivers... he got some money from somebody to build the... send out the energy for it. And these kids were listening to music of FM... and it was... it was magnificently beautiful on a thing like that.
It got so much publicity inside of Connecticut, that at Hartford, Connecticut, they had a large AM device and the people who were in control of that came up to him and said: "Hey we think that FM is pretty good you know. We have listened to what these kids... what you've given these kids around here and could you build us an FM transmitter, for us here in Connecticut." And the first official one that was built in the United States was built in Connecticut and Dan Noble actually basically built the thing with their help, you know, with their hands and... to work for on it.
That went over so powerfully, that the police people at Connecticut came to him and said: "Is it possible with FM that you can build a box that we can put in the back seat of our cars and that we can talk to any of our police cars, no matter where they are in the state of Connecticut?"
He said: "Yes, I can do that, but I can do something better. It can be two-way. They can talk back to you." And they just about an orgasm, you know. They just couldn't believe it. [Laughs.] They... he said: "I'll do it," and he built the first the first... they were the first police department in any state of the union that had that two-way talk, talk from the car to the headquarters and from the headquarters back to any car they wanted to in the state of Connecticut.
RW: And that became a staple of Motorola...
LH: Yes, and in fact, it was the old man who did it... he founded Motorola. He founded it around someplace in the 1930 era, during the Depression, let's say 1930... I don't know if it was '29 or '32. He founded Motorola and when he learned about this, he went to see Dan Noble who was still a professor at Connecticut, and he told him he wanted to... wanted him to come... "The price is... I'll pay anything... I'll double your salary... I'll triple your salary. I want you. You're gonna be the future of Motorola and we want you."
He said, "I'm a professor, I don't want to go on in business. I just don't want to do it."
So he said, " Well, how long have you been without getting... you know, after you've worked as a professor for four years, five years, I've forgotten what it was... you get to take a period, with pay, to go do what you want of your own, you know. And so they... they decided. He said, you know, "How long has it been since you've taken your leave?" He said, "I've never taken it." And he said, "I had a talk with your president last night and he said that you should take and that if you will come with us, you don't have to just sit around and twiddle your thumbs, come and see what we're doing. And when it's over and you have to come back to school, fine, we love ya, and... but I think I can make it in such a way that you won't want to go."
And he did and he went down and as a result, Motorola had 100% of the FM transmissions that were made during World War II, because he got there someplace around 1939, 1940, Dan Noble went to Motorola.
RW: Well, it also set the tone with the company today. Motorola is still the leader.
LH: It's still the leader...
RW: ... in communications, wireless communications.
LH: Well, and ...
RW: So it's interesting that over such a long period of time...
LH: Yeah. Well, it was the wisdom of the Old Man, and I call him the "Old Man," Bob Galvin, it was his son, who is chairman of the board...
[flip to side B]
The Old Man was a wonderful guy. You had to love him.
RW: Well anyway, Dan Noble recruited you to Motorola to be the general manager of the semiconductor operation.
LH: That's right, and I went there in 1958.
RW: And so, what was it like in '58? Pretty small operation, wasn't it?
LH: Ah, the... I arrived there about mid-June of 1958 and for the year 1958 they ha... Motorola sold $3 million worth of semiconductors, most of them to themselves, about 89 or 90% went to the other parts of Motorola and take 10% of that went to other people. It was an inside thing, you see... that kind of a thing. But... where were we now?
RW: Well, you'd just arrived and taken over the operation.
LH: Yeah, we sold $3 million worth that year at a $3 million loss. That gives you an idea of what...a hilarious thing it was. In my... I mean, the next year, the year after that... I went there in '58 and the year '59 and I fired just about every engineer that I had there and brought them back from my friends at...
LH: No, no...
RW: Bell Labs?
LH: Bell Labs... I got all confused... Because the Bell Labs people were the only ones who knew what a transistor was even then, you know, that far back. So I got them and, believe it not, in that first full year of 1959 we sold $10 million of dollars worth of things, semiconductor things, and we just barely made a profit, about $200,000 in profit. And from there on, the curve just went from there to there [motioning upwards]. And when I left there in 1968, I believe, I don't know because I don't have exactly the amount of semiconductors that TI... TI was number one up until that time... I think we beat 'em in 19... the year I left.
And, you know, I figured my job was over. I did it. I got it. I got good people to do it themselves and...
RW: What technical breakthroughs occurred during that period. I mean, this was... you saw the integrated circuit appear, right?
RW: ... during that period of time?
LH: Yes. We did. And we had the ECL, we were pushing the ECL, for one, ourselves. But it turned out, with more wisdom, we wouldn't have done it, but it was the fastest system that was available at the time... on it. But we did a lot of things. We owned... There were many things we owned. We owned the diode business completely. We owned the automotive thing. In fact, we built the first computer-controlled automobiles in the world and we took them to General Motors and they liked it. And so, we got 100% of that business and they still do have it, they still have it as a result.
And I won't take the credit for being the brilliant scientist that saw this. There were... I had smart guys. They came to me, in all honesty. But once they explained it to me, I said; "Hey, let's go. You can have all the money you need. It's gonna be a big field one of these days."
RW: So, when... in '68, how many people were in the semiconductor operation?
LH: Seventeen thousand people and ...you know I wrote this down because I was afraid you were gonna to ask me this thing and I did look it up... and I'll tell ya what I did. In 1968, we sold $200 million in sales and had a profit of $25 million of profit in the semiconductor operation and I think we were the largest in the world. I can't prove that and if TI was still number one, the next year they didn't have it anymore, Motorola was number one.
RW: And the Japanese were not a factor...
LH: Not yet. By the time... 1970-71, they started crossing over, but they didn't cross over in the sixties at all...
RW: So, you really were the... you really built the Motorola semiconductor operation almost from nothing...
LH: That's right.
RW: How many people were there when you arrived?
LH: Ah, three hundred.
RW: OK, so three hundred to seventeen thousand.
LH: Now, the seventeen thousand included people in Taiwan, people in Korea, and people in Paris, and people in Germany and all over - all over the world.
RW: Well, that brings up a good point. Motorola attempted automation while, say Fairchild, was going offshore... to low labor rates.
RW: And the automation program didn't seem to work, or did it?
LH: It did. It did. Who else made that kind of profit?
RW: That's true.
LH: Who else made twenty five million on two hundred worth of sales at that time? That's a profit over 10%! Now you tell me that that didn't work. That's baloney! Now, it turns out once you have that, and we had to keep it at home to get it done right, then we took it over there and our prices... our costs went way down and it was... it was a combination, but we believed in the automation system, for then it was right. I think it was the right thing to do.
RW: Well, certainly Motorola was the leader in that.
LH: Yeah, but I had built... I had built a big plant a big plant in Korea before I left, and one in Hong Kong too. Those two existed and then since then, I dunno, they're all over.
RW: Well anyway, in 1968 then, Bob Noyce came to see you.
LH: Yes, he did.
RW: I mean, that is incredible. I also find it incredible that you've never had to look for a job. Your entire career, people come to you. You've never had...
LH: I hadn't thought of that but you're right. I never... I never asked for a job in my whole life...
RW: You're pretty lucky.
LH: I never thought of that. [Laughs.]
RW: But anyway...
LH: This time it was Bob Noyce.
RW: ... Noyce and Moore were unhappy at Fairchild with the... being controlled from Syosset [New York].
LH: Yeah. Exactly. And I don't blame them. And part of the deal was that that guy got fired... was fired before I came on board, and...
RW: Was that Sherman Fairchild?
LH: Ah, yeah. And they did it. And he wasn't even around by the time I arrived.
RW: Well anyway, so Noyce and Moore were getting ready to found Intel.
LH: He told me. Bob told me he was going to do that. He was still there and hadn't left and the public didn't know he was that going to go do that thing, but they sent out the chairman of the board of directors, who was a lawyer, to get me. And I just told him to shove it up... something, you know? I had no interest in it. I really didn't. And I knew I'd passed them, I'd passed TI, I thought, "What the hell do I need... I don't need your problems..., you know. " So I wanted to stay there.
I wouldn't have gone if Bob Noyce if... I had great respect for Bob Noyce and he's a great salesman.
RW: Well, it's also very responsible to go out and recruit somebody to take over as the CEO, as your leaving.
RW: I wonder if that's ever been done before. I can't think of a case where somebody is leaving to start another company and he goes a recruits his successor. That's really rare.
LH: Yeah, well it is in a way. I hadn't thought of that either. I was just doing the best I could at each time. And I'm a wanderlust sort of fellow anyway. I get bored after a while doing the same thing. And each time... to me, it was a success, it was a success... I was a success at Bell Laboratories, I was a success at Harvard. My nine graduate students were the brightest ones at Harvard--they really were, you can go talk to them and see who they are. I'll give you their names if you want. In fact, some of the professors were raising hell with me because "You've taken all the good students and we're left with the junior students."
I said, " You know, they just like me." [Laughs.]
RW: So what was the... it was a challenge, was it...
RW: ... at Fairchild?
LH: ...it was a fair challenge. Why did I go to the Navy when I didn't have to? I could have gotten... got a job and if you had a degree in engineering, the... they weren't gonna take you away from some company that said they had to have Les Hogan. And I could have done that but I didn't. I wanted to go to the Navy. I just wanted to do different things.
RW: So you went to Fairchild. So, what did you find when you got there?
LH: It was a disaster when I got there, it really was. They... and most of the blame goes to the people at Syosset. My god, they were building all kinds of things. They were building the big machines to print newspapers, you know. They had a thing going down in Mexico where companies wanted, you now, wires connected in a certain way and all tied up in nice knots, you know [wiring harnesses] so you can just put it on and just hook it up, and this kind of thing. You know, there's no money in that damned business. I don't even know... but the Sysoset people wanted it. It wasn't part of the semiconductor operation.
So I spent about a month, maybe a month and a half, finding out what the hell I was running other than semiconductor and I just got a team together and said, "Go get rid of these guys. Throw everything... Sell it to anybody at any price. Get out of these... all these businesses. We have really one business, that's semiconductors." And we did, and we sold 'em, you know, at reasonable prices, you know. We didn't lose money on any of them. We didn't make any money on any of them either, but we sort of broke even.
RW: All right, let's break.
LH: Fairchild... What I did when I got there. Well, when I got there the total corporation sales that year, $170 million, but about $70 million of it went in all of these things that were really controlled at Syosset, you know. But I was then the president, so they were mine, and I got rid of almost all of it. Anything. Which was a loss of $70 million in sales for me. This...the semiconductor sales at the time were closer to $100 million, about half of what I had sold that same year, at Motorola...on that.
And the loss for the whole corporation... it wasn't a loss... the semiconductor was a loss that year but the corporation with its sales of $170 million had a profit of $573,000. It had profit.
LH: ...is what it amounted to. And I was the president of the company until 1974 and in 1974 the sales, which were almost entirely semiconductor at... by that time: $384 million in sales at Fairchild with a profit of $27 million and all you have to do is get the yearly book that we put out, you know... and you can get it.
RW: Now you brought quite a few people in...
RW: ...from Motorola.
LH: Yeah, well, yes... I didn't really go in and... I honestly didn't ask them. I figured that if the good ones came to me they'd have a job but I wasn't going to a... you know. They had to come to me. I didn't... in all honesty... not to say that ... to protect myself from Bob Galvin who wanted to put me in jail. That's neither here nor there...
The thing is, I just... they came. They came of their own... they called me up, they called me up from Taiwan, you know, places like that. "Hey Les, is this true?" And I said, "Yeah, it's true." He said, "I'm gonna stop off and see you there as soon as I get... I'm coming up to see you at Fairchild." And they walked in, "Got a job for me?" And I said, "You're a damn good guy." [Laughs.] And I said, "I don't know yet 'cause I... you know, I'm not familiar with what's going on here... but I'll take you on, you know. We'll make money on it anyway, you know, I'm not worried about that. We'll have profit and we can pay you and we'll figure out what the job is gonna be later on, but you got a job."
They went home, went back. They told Fairchild, er... Motorola: "We're leaving, we're going with Les." You know, there were about three every day for a while.
RW: So Motorola sued.
LH: Yeah, they sued me. Yeah. That's all right. We won.
RW: Well, it is America...
LH: The judge threw it out.
RW: It is America. You do get...
LH: Yeah, it is America! It's America!
RW: You get to work where you want...
LH: And in all honesty, I'm not protecting myself, I didn't ask a single person to come. They all came to me.
RW: But now, and of course I was there at that time, there was a... seemed to me a great cultural difference between the people from Phoenix and the people from...
LH: In what way?
RW: ...the Bay Area.
LH: In what way?
RW: That, that... well, I mean, we had people like Jerry Sanders... very flamboyant...
LH: Yes... yeah.
RW: ... and the Motorola people were quite conservative.
LH: Yeah. You know, I had to fire him. I won't tell you why and I'll take it to my grave, but I had not choice. There was too much of that...
RW: Well, he certainly was and is a very flamboyant person.
RW: He used to wear white suits and...
LH: He got me... he got the company in terrible trouble.
LH: Terrible trouble. And, forget about it, it's got nothing to do with his sexual problems or anything else, it goes far beyond that. And he could have gone to jail.
RW: Well, there was a... at Fairchild, there was a culture that everybody went to the Wagon Wheel.
RW: ... after work. Not only Fairchild people but competitors and they all talked. And compared notes. And the Motorola people were shocked.
LH: Yeah, they were very shocked that you would do that. We were a very... even with the size of the Motorola activity, we were ourselves. We knew... we wouldn't tell anybody on the outside even what we were thinking about. You know, it was just.... there was a difference there and I don't know why. I... I'll say this, in all honesty although it... the people that worked for me, wherever I was, whenever I was, when I got to know them and they got to know me, they liked me, they really did.
And the ones that came from Motorola were evidence of that situation. They came to me. They wanted to be wherever I was. And I wouldn't take 'em if they weren't bright.
Well, you know, you have some guys every once in a while that aren't too bright. You find that out a year or two later. I used to.. a problem... a thing I used to do, about every year I demanded a 5%... you had to get rid of 5% of your people and you know why? Because they didn't have the courage to fire the deadheads and every year, there are about 5% that are deadheads. And they didn't have the courage, they were too nice.
RW: Well, Bill Gates does that at Microsoft today.
LH: Is that right?
RW: Yes, that's a requirement that you...
LH: I'll be damned. He took it from me. I'll sue him! [Laughs.]
RW: It really is true. You can't have 100% yield on people.
LH: Yeah, and they get to love each other and like each other, even though they know they're not contributing anything. But when they're forced to give away 5%, they'll get their... the deadheads out.
Right after they'd fire 5%, they'd go out and hire 10%, you know, right away. But they had to have the 5% before they could get the 10%.
RW: Now, now there were rumors that the people that left to start Intel took... intellectual property with them.
LH: The ones that went to Intel? I don't know.
RW: But there was never any action... taken.
LH: I wouldn't bring action. If I can't win the war without the lawyer, I... forget it.
RW: Now, what did you change at Fairchild? I mean, you already... you got rid of these non-semiconductor kind of operations...
LH: I got rid of that. That was the first thing I did. That brought our sales to $100 million and what I'd say it was in 1974...'cause that's when Wilf [Corrigan] took control of the thing, or soon before. It went $100 million to $384 million in sales... so, you know, something must have been going right.
RW: What were the technological changes during that period?
LH: Of course, the integrated circuit took its place... the ah... let me think now, this is... see we're talking about 1970s...yeah, the computer on a chip came. In around 1970 itself or 1971, someplace in that era... that it came, so there were a lot of technologies that came. Even though our sales went up and our profits went up, we were slow at getting a good microprocessor at the marketplace and Wilf didn't improve it any when he took on...
RW: Well, in fact, MOS division was always in trouble. I was in it.
LH: Is that right?
RW: We were always in trouble. Never, never successful.
LH: Yeah, that's right. It never was. It never was.
RW: I don't know what was the problem...
LH: And it had to be if you wanted to go on... because that's the way the energy went in that place.
RW: Well now, also in that period of time, there were many attempts at diversification. I can think of calculators, watches, games, and minicomputers as four of those. What was the rationale?
LH: Well, you know, I did not try to stop any of those. But I think I was looking back at being the first guy to go to General Motors, and Ford, and what have you and tell you this is the future and we actually built a whole car. The computer had to go in the back... in the trunk because it was so big, you know, but that's all right, we knew it was gonna be smaller and they understood that too.
But we wanted them to get into the act on it and it turned out to be so damned successful for Motorola, as time went on we sold almost double the amount of devices to the automotive industry as we did the year before, you know.
And Motorola, still as I said today, they own that business. Nobody can, so far, has been able to break it from them. But I think I was carried away that here [snaps fingers] and [snaps fingers] look what it did. Now you got watches and other things that are coming on--are they for real, you know? Well, the watch is for real, the watch is, but we couldn't sell it, you know. It was a mistake. You make mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes at Phoenix. But, you know, as long as I had some winners, you know, you can get away with it.
One thing I will share with you now that I've never shared with anyone else, just before I came over to... left Motorola, I had an operation at Mayo Clinic and they damned near killed me. And it took several years and some very brilliant doctors here in this section who were able to find what the hell Mayo Clinic did to me and fix it up for me. So I was running on... on one leg for a period of time and then... 1974 I was in such bad physical situation that we talked it over with the people at... the board of directors...and I told them, "You know, I wanna stay here. I wanna have a proprietary position but I, to be honest with you, I can't run the company anymore. I don't have the physical capab..."
It turns out, I can do it now because the surgeons here were able to fix me up. But I wasn't fixed until abut 1985.
RW: So you became the vice-chairman of the board.
RW: And Wilf Corrigan became...
LH: Yeah, once he got in, that's why he's mad you see... Once he got in, he wouldn't... he wouldn't let me do anything, you see. It wasn't the way it was planned, OK?
RW: Yes. You had probably, like Gordon Moore is today, I imagine you would want to be... you would have wanted to be in kind of that position... the senior statesman, the strategist...
LH: That's exactly what I wanted...
RW: And then have an Andy Grove run it on a... day-to-day kind of basis.
LH: Exactly, that's what I asked for but my Andy Grove tried to get rid of me. That's why he has such hatred. And, as a matter of fact it was a mistake for him to do that because we started going to hell in a hand basket, you know. We had to sell or we were gonna go bankrupt. And Shlumberger made the best offer and they fired Wilf on the first day. They got the... they hated him. Not because I told them.
RW: Yeah. And then they installed Tom Roberts.
LH: Yeah. Which is a mistake. I loved the guy, he was a nice guy but not... you know, what the hell did he know about all our business, you know. He didn't know anything about it. Now, his boss was a very bright guy and the trouble is--and I'm trying to remember his name, who was president of...
LH: Rubay. Yeah. He died, you know, right around that period. Right, soon after they bought it. He died and they ended up finally with some first-class jerk, you know, who... only thing he knew about was oil wells and he thought anything else was a waste of time so the whole thing fell apart.
But by that time I had actually taken... I was gone, you know... got my pension and left. But... it's... it's a sad thing.
RW: It really is. I mean the...
LH: But I'll tell you Wilf...
RW: ...premier company in the world...
LH: Wilf deserves a lot of credit for destroying it and that's as far as I'll go. But, he did.
RW: And then the Shlumberger people completed the...
LH: They completed it. But it was pretty bad. We wouldn't have had to buy... sell it if we were... if we could keep it going.
RW: Yeah, well, the planar patent which had been a cash cow for so long was running out.
LH: Yeah, it had run out. Well, let's see...
RW: It was about to.
LH: It was about to, yeah. It was... if it hadn't already occurred, it did occur... and it was a good income.
RW: Yeah. Yeah. The Shlumberger... I was trying to recruit a fellow from Fairchild who had worked for me when I was there, and he said, "Well, I'm getting close to re... I can take my sabbatical...guaranteed." And I wasn't able to recruit him.
And then I got the last issue of Fairchild Progress I believe it was called, the...
RW: ... the magazine that would go to the customers and tell about the products. And in the magazine it said, "This is the last issue and here is... if you want to continue to receive anything from us, Mr. Customer, if you're interested in transistors, send it to this place. Send your business card to this place and we'll maybe put you on the mailing list. And if you want MOS products, it's here. And it's South Portland, Maine for TTL and ECL." As if some customer is going to take all this time, send off all these business cards, so that he has the privilege of getting your product literature.
RW: So, I took that and I went to see--the fellow's name was Chuck Erickson--and I said: "Chuck, look at this. You need to come and work for LSI Logic 'cause clearly these people are headed for disaster."
RW: And that's what... and I recruited him. I mean it was so obvious that they would confuse the internal structure and decentralization with how you...how you approach the customer. And, of course, Intel is many different divisions and separate operations and P&L [profit and loss] centers, but when they approach the customer, it's "we're Intel," and not that "we're this division and we're fighting with this other division..." So, it was a clear to me that the people didn't know... and I was working, in fact, as a consultant in 1980 and I... and Fairchild was re-entering the ASIC business and I wrote to Tom Longo and said: "I know a lot about this business and I used to run it at Fairchild and I can help you set it up." And he didn't even bother to reply to my...
LH: It's a shame, you know, and again...
LH: He was arrogant. He was bright, very bright, but very arrogant. And he didn't know that he needed help. And we all need help. I don't care who you are, what you know, you gotta have some helpers!
RW: Well thanks, Les, for this and it's been very edifying.
LH: Well, at least, I've tried to be honest and fair about the thing. From beginning to end, there are very few people who can tell you the whole story from beginning to end because those who were there when the transistor was invented are dead--most of them. Some are left. And that's why I say you should go see John Pierce.
RW: I shall do so.
LH: Although he never worked on semiconductors himself, that fellow is so bright, that he knew everybody and everything that was going on at Bell labs and he understood it, you know. He understood everything.
RW: I shall do so. Well, thank you again.
LH: Yeah. OK.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]