An Interview with F.W. “Bill” Gutzwiller

 The Early History of the Silicon Controlled Rectifier


Oral History – Bill Gutzwiller (Continued)


Immediately I could see the possibilities for these solid-state devices in control applications of the type I had been working on at Allis-Chalmers, Schindler, Cutler Hammer, and Harnischfeger.  At the same time, some of my disillusionment at Harnischfeger, my employer at that time, must have communicated itself to Harvey.  Mary and I also told Harvey about the upcoming vacation we were planning with our little Betsy at my uncle’s Ramshead Farm in upstate New York.  All of a sudden, the bulb lit in Harvey’s head.  He told me their new business was looking for experienced technical people for their field sales force and said he could line me up for an interview at their Syracuse semiconductor headquarters while we were at the farm some 70 miles away near Ithaca.  I thought “What’s there to lose?” and said OK.


So it was that Mary and drove in our new Ford two-door automobile to GE’s huge Electronics Park operation in Syracuse.  Dick Rudolph, the sales manager for semiconductors, sat down with me and discussed my experience and aspirations and told me about their business, its explosive growth, and their need for young fast-learner field salesmen.  I expressed interest and enthusiasm for the prospects even though I had zero solid-state or electronic device knowledge or experience.  (Marquette’s electrical engineering curriculum had nothing on solid-state physics when I was in school despite the revolutionary impact it would have in just a few years.)    


Oral History – Bill Gutzwiller (Continued)


We agreed that, if GE hired me, I would have to spend at least six months in Engineering learning something about this new technology before I’d be ready to go into the field.  Rudolph suggested that the best place for this engineering experience would be in their plant at Clyde, New York, about 50 miles west of Syracuse where they fabricated these new transistor and rectifier marvels from germanium.  Since the day was still young, Dick phoned their manager of engineering at Clyde and arranged to have Mary and me visit there that beautiful September afternoon.   Off we went, taking the newly finished New York Thruway west to Weedsport and then on backroads to Clyde, which turned out to be a few block long country town of about 1500 people.  The GE plant was a one story building on the outskirts and was located next to the old Erie Canal which passed through Clyde.  I checked in at the front desk and was soon ushered in to meet Ray York who described their business and asked about my aspirations.  We hit it off together immediately.  He then introduced me to two of his supervisors, Roy Lewis and Russ Lyon.  They showed me around the plant and gave me an overview of the products they made and the labs in which they developed those products. I was impressed by the compactness of the business, the hustle with which the ladies on the assembly line did their work, and the contrast in size and weight between these products and the 100 ton products we made at Harnischfeger.


Go To Gutzwiller Oral History, Page 3


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