Robert T. Jenkins

Born: 1943

Robert T. "Ted" Jenkins begins his oral history by discussing his early life and his years at California Institute of Technology, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees. Jenkins was recruited by Gordon Moore to work for Fairchild Semiconductor and left a short time later to follow Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce to Noyce-Moore Electronics, later called Intel. Jenkins reflects on his lengthy career at Intel and his work on blue LED, early microprocessor chips, and other products.

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.


Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0364
No. of pages: 100
Minutes: 314

Interview Sessions

David C. Brock and Hyungsub Choi
9 May and 24 July 2007

Abstract of Interview

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.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1965 California Institute of Technology BS
1966 California Institute of Technology MS

Professional Experience

Fairchild Semiconductor Research and Development Laboratories

1966 to 1967
Process Engineer

Intel Corporation

1968 to 1979
Variety of positions in Wafer Fabrication
Manager, Microprocessor/Peripheral Manufacturing
1980 to 1985
General Manager, Peripheral Components Division
1986 to 1989
Vice President and General Manager, Memory Components Division
1990 to 1999
Vice President and Director, Corporate Licensing
1996 to 1999
Chairman, Government Affairs Committee

California State University, Sacramento

2000 to 2008
Adjunct Professor, Communication Studies


Year(s) Award

Chairman, Board of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association

Member, Board of Directors, Skyler Technology, Inc

Member, Board of the Information Technology Industry Council

Member, Board of the American Electronics Association

President, Alumni Association of California Institute of Technology

President, The Associations (California Institute of Technology support organization)

Member, Board of Trustees, California Institute of Technology

Table of Contents

Early and College Years

Lived in Glendale, California, ancestral home town. Helped his father, a welder, with any projects he was allowed to. Helped build swimming pool in back yard. Always liked physics and chemistry in school. Loved ham radio; mourned the demise of Morse code. Attended California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for both bachelor's and master's degrees. Worked in Carver Mead's laboratory. Decided against PhD, instead being recruited right into Fairchild Semiconductor by Gordon Moore.

Fairchild Semiconductor Years

Received equivalent of PhD education from technology course at Fairchild, course taught by Andrew Grove, and from practical experience. Patented applications of Schottky diode.

Starting at Intel

Recruited by Gordon Moore to Noyce-Moore Electronics, later called Intel; developed blue LED. Worked with IBM on early microprocessor chips. Microprocessor originally "good for traffic signals;" needed applications and software.

Fabrication Plants and Competition

In charge of three fabs. Selected Folsom site. Became general manager of memory division. Trade agreement with Japan kept Intel competitive. From DRAM to EPROM to flash memory. Out of flash memory into licensing.

Reflections on Grove, Moore, and Intel

Discussion of personalities of Andrew Grove and Gordon Moore. Discussion of Intel culture. Discussion of Intel's stock appreciation, number of patents.


About the Interviewer

David C. Brock

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.

In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

Hyungsub Choi

Hyungsub Choi is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Seoul National University and was manager of the emerging technologies program at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, directing the Robert W. Gore Materials Innovation project. His training is in the history of science and technology, with specialties in recent developments in the fields of semiconductors, materials science, and nanotechnology. He has received degrees from Seoul National University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Johns Hopkins University. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Choi’s works have appeared in leading professional journals, such as Technology and Culture and Social Studies of Science.  Currently, he is preparing a book examining the history of the semiconductor industry in the United States and Japan.