Traitorous Eight

The Traitorous Eight, as they would become known, are eight men who left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to form Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957. More neutral terms include the "Fairchild Eight" and the "Shockley Eight." They have sometimes been called "Fairchildren," although this term has been also used to refer either to Fairchild alumni or to its spinoff companies.

The Eight


According to authors Joseph Blasi, Douglas Kruse, and Aaron Bernstein, these eight men left because they did not agree with William Shockley's authoritarian managerial style and his practice of expecting a certain result instead of letting the research guide the process. There is no record of Shockley ever using the term "traitorous eight," and his wife denied that he ever used it.

The eight employees went to Arnold Beckman and asked him to replace Shockley. Beckman tried to find a new manager and left Shockley as a director with limited powers. As the search dragged on, it became apparent that Beckman could not find a replacement, so he restored Shockley's responsibilities. The eight men then resigned and signed a research contract with Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation to form Fairchild Semiconductor.

Their entrepreneurial desires did not end with Fairchild. Like many other Fairchild employees, seven of the eight went on to found various spinoff companies. These spinoffs and their founders are sometimes known as "Fairchildren". The most successful were Noyce and Moore, founders of Intel, and Kleiner, co-founder of the Kleiner Perkins venture capital firm. Additionally, Roberts, Hoerni and Last founded what later became Teledyne, while Blank co-founded Xicor. Grinich became a professor at UC Berkeley and Stanford University


The term "Fairchildren" refers to the seminal role that Fairchild Semiconductor played in spawning spin-off companies in Silicon Valley. It is a play on the words "Fairchild" and "children," the latter referring to the formation of (unofficial) spin-off companies from a parent company.

In research, reporting and popular lore related to Silicon Valley, the term "Fairchildren" has been variously used to refer to:

  1. The spin-off companies created by former employees of Fairchild Semiconductor. This is the usage of historian Leslie Berlin (the acknowledged expert on Fairchild) in her 2001 journal article , in her 2001 doctoral dissertation, and in her biography of Robert Noyce.
  2. The founders of such firms. This is the earliest usage, e.g. Tom Wolfe's 1983 profile of Noyce or a 5,000-word profile of Silicon Valley in 1999.
  3. Former Fairchild Semiconductor employees, as in a 1988 New York Times article.
  4. The original founders of Fairchild Semiconductor, more commonly known as the "Traitorous Eight", "Fairchild Eight" or "Shockley Eight". This has been used by a PBS website and a book on stock options.

Note that there is an overlap among the last three categories, as some of the Fairchild Eight (such as Noyce and Eugene Kleiner) left Fairchild to form other companies.


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