Motorola / Arizona
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November 8, 2001

There are some subjects concerning Motorola that haven't been covered in any literature I have read. As I remember those subjects, I will drop you notes. - Ivan Saddler




The book, The Founders Touch, details the early history and failures of the company. The first product and failure was a battery eliminator for old tube radios. The product was made for Sears Roebuck. There are more details in the book mentioned above. The second and successful - product was radios for automobiles. At the start of WWII, that was Motorola. Police radio at that time was simplex with base station transmissions on AM just above the Broadcast band.

The police cars had transmitters in the trunk of the patrol cars which used the 30 MHZ band. Both of these radios were made by Motorola and others.

The War shut down most civilian product manufacture. Motorola's skills, concentrated in the Chicago area, were idle and capable. Motorola hired a professor named Dr. Dan Noble to find replacement products. He and his crew invented the Handy Talkie and the Walkie Talkie. Motorola produced them by the millions.

When the war ended, the Signal Corps came to Dr. Noble and asked Motorola to move some parts of it's operation away from the Chicago area. They were concerned that one atomic bomb could severely cripple the production capability. Dan Noble told the government people that he would like to move his R & D operations. The government folk agreed. When Dr. Noble was young and in college, he would come to the southwest to vacation and ride horses. He knew that research and development required  educated employees. He chose to move to the Phoenix area because of the proximity to Arizona State University.

The first group to come to Phoenix rented a place on Central Ave. This was the first Motorola presence in this state. The group, all dedicated to military electronics, worked there until the first Motorola -owned building was completed. The building, now highly modified, is on 56th Street in Phoenix. The front of the building was originally decorated with Native American symbols.

When the invention of the transistor was announced by Bell Labs (December 24, 1947), it started a revolution in the electronics business. Dan Noble could see the connection between transistors and car radios.

While riding on an airplane shortly thereafter, Dr. Noble happened to sit next to a physics Professor from Purdue University. His name was Bill Taylor. The more they talked, the more Dan Noble wanted him to work for Motorola. The bait he used was "How would you like to head the development of transistors for Motorola?"' Very shortly Dr, Taylor decided to accept the challenge.

Dr. Taylor had one more decision to make. Dan Noble said the development could be done in Chicago or in Phoenix. Bill quickly opted for Phoenix. The Military Electronics people needed all the space at 56th street, but with some arm twisting from Dr. Noble, offered 1000 square feet of space. It was fenced off from the rest of the building for security reasons.

Dr Noble asked Taylor to concentrate on germanium (what else was available?) for power transistors. Noble knew that the least reliable component in a car radio was the electro-mechanical vibrator used to transform the (then) 6 volts DC to about 300 volts DC needed by the tubes in car radios. That was very good direction. Power transistors didn't need high precision, nor did they operate at high frequencies. For those reasons, manufacture could be mechanized.

The staff of the semiconductor development group grew quickly to exceed the space at 56th street. A home across the street from the 56th street building was rented. Soon Motorola’s' first transistor, a germanium point contact unit, was built in the kitchen of that house.

Seeing the potential for success, Dan Noble soon hired another professor, C. Lester Hogan, Ph.D., to head the semiconductor operation. Quickly, a building was assembled at 52nd street and Mc Dowell Road. Dr. Hogan added to the R & D plate another set of items which would prove popular. These were glass sleeve diodes, signal diodes, rectifiers and the ever-popular Zener diodes.

That limited start soon grew to a whole complex of buildings with production in Japan, Malaysia, Philippines and Mexico to name a few. The production of the 52nd street operation supported Motorola’s ever increasing product portfolio. In business parlance, it became the cash-cow for the whole corporation.

In all businesses there are cycles. In the semiconductor field the cycle has traditionally been three years from boom to boom with a bust in between. As this is being written, Motorola has sold its' discrete and power semiconductor businesses to the executives there. It is now called ON Semiconductor. The military and space businesses have also been sold to General Dynamics Corporation.

In the electronics business, the only constant is change. -Ivan Saddler 11-08-2001




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