EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS 

Mary Anne Potter

 

Oral History – Mary Anne Potter

(Continued)

 

At the time I joined TI, I was 22 years old and extremely shy. In many ways, I was also naïve because I had grown up in a conservative Protestant home in a small Texas town and, even though I had gone to Texas Tech for four years, I had lived in a women’s dorm the entire time. I certainly had never been in the situation where I had almost no access to women as friends. Most people expected me to last less than 3 months.  The people I spent 10-12 hours a day with at least 5 days a week were men. Most of them were married. I think there was some resentment and awkwardness with having a female engineer in the group (remember that this was in the early 60s).  To give all of us the credit we deserve, we learned to work together very well; it just took time.

 

 These early days of IC production were exciting, chaotic, frustrating, and rewarding. My first assignment was in the pilot line diffusion area, reporting to Ron Harris. Ron turned out to be a great mentor. He turned me loose in the IC lab where many of the diffusion processes for Minuteman ICs were being developed and put me in charge of a series of tests there. One of the tasks that I disliked but found to be very useful was using the mathematical tool of “least squares fit” to analyze results and to determine future tests. But one “least squares fit” with four data points would take me several days just to calculate. I had to use an adding machine that was electric but had the old nine buttons up and nine across with only two decimal point capability (for cents). 

 

    

 

Oral History – Mary Anne Potter

(Continued)

 

Then I had to use my slide rule to calculate the squares and square roots, plot the results on log-log paper, and decide what the data were telling me.  The graphics calculators of today that solve complex equations with multiple unknowns and graph them in seconds would have been a dream come true back then. I spent much of my time the first month or so running tests and calculating diffusion coefficients for sources I had never heard of (red phosphorus, boron tribromide, phosphorus pentoxide, and others) and learning a new language. Most of the terms in this language had never been mentioned in my electronics and solid state physics courses. It was the language of IC fabrication—fascinating.

 

My days, evenings, and Saturdays were spent in three different areas at work: the IC lab, the production area, and my office. The lab was off of the same main hallway in the SC building as my office on the first floor. I shared an office with three men, Don Brooks, Lee Barnes, and Ron. After Ron left the company, Scot Clark moved into the office.    The sight of Jack Kilby, sometimes accompanied by President Mark Shepherd, walking along the halls and looking into the offices on Saturdays was a common occurrence. Jack was very tall and Mark was tall, so they usually looked into the offices from the outside walls. TI was far behind in production on the Minuteman products, so everyone worked as much overtime as they were able.

Potter Oral History, Page 3

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