Oral history interview with Robert T. Jenkins

  • 2007-May-09
  • 2007-Jul-24

Robert T. Jenkins (Ted) grew up in Glendale, California, the suburb of Los Angeles in which his parents and grandparents had also grown up. His father was a welder, and Ted always liked to help him with his work. Together they built a swimming pool in their back yard. Jenkins also loved ham radio and cannot remember when he was not interested in electricity. He earned both his BS in engineering (there were no divisions within engineering at the time) and his MS from California Institute of Technology. While he was there he worked in the lab of Carver Mead, his advisor, and took a comprehensive business course from Horace Gilbert. While Jenkins was in the lab Gordon Moore came to talk to Carver Mead, recruiting likely students for his company, Fairchild Semiconductor. He told Jenkins about his bipolar power transistor, and Ted became very interested. He went right from his master's degree to Fairchild, beginning in the process end of the linear integrated circuit group in Research and Development. All new employees were required to take a technology course at Fairchild, taught by Andrew Grove, Edward Snow, and Leslie Vadasz; Jenkins calls it better than a PhD.” At Fairchild, Jenkins and Garth Wilson developed and patented Schottky-barrier diode processes and devices. Half seriously, Carver Mead called the Schottky diode the Jenkins diode. Jenkins later used a Schottky diode in the design of Intel's first product, the i3101 64-bit TTL compatible RAM. Introduced in 1969, the device was nearly twice as fast as earlier TTL products.

When Jenkins had been at Fairchild for about two years, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore left to found their own company, Noyce-Moore Electronics (or Moore-Noyce, which they thought sounded too much like "more noise," an inauspicious name for an electronics company), whose name they changed to Intel (INTegrated ELectronics) later that year. Moore recruited a number of others from Fairchild, including Jenkins, who came in originally to help develop blue LED. He held a number of positions, working on wafers, until he was made manager of peripherals manufacturing. Intel's first product used Jenkins' Schottky diode, which doubled the speed and reduced the power consumed. Soon thereafter Jenkins became general manager of the whole peripheral components division. From there he moved to become a vice president and the general manager of the memory components division. He selected the Folsom site, within a day's drive from Santa Clara, for new fabrication plants, and explains that the Oregon site was chosen because it was not on the San Andreas Fault line. He spent his last ten years at Intel as a vice president and as director of corporate licensing. After retiring from Intel he reentered the academic world, becoming an adjunct professor at California State University at Sacramento and joining the Board of Trustees of California Institute of Technology.

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