This article first appeared in the August 2017 issue of Tek Retiree News
Tektronix from MOS Integrated Circuits to the Hubble Space Telescope
By Jon Ferrara (aka Jon Morris, Tek engineer with MOS Group from 1978 until 1993)
MOS at Tek, the early years
There was a little known business at Tektronix about which many people were not aware. This was the MOS (metal oxide semiconductor) design and wafer fabrication business. This business originated in Tek Labs in building 50. There was a design engineering group in Tek Labs and a wafer fabrication group which built a laboratory in building 48. The wafer fabrication group was formed by Brian Corrie who managed the manufacturing and process engineering functions. This occurred in the mid 1970s. The original designs incorporated PMOS (p type metal oxide semiconductors and NMOS (ntype) designs which were used in some of the 7000 series scopes and communications equipment. In the early 1980s this group was transferred to the Integrated Circuit Division of Tektronix which was also located in building 48 at the time. The main business of the IC Division was to manufacture bipolar semiconductors. These were used in all the 5000 and 7000 series scopes as well as other equipment made by Tektronix. So, the MOS business was considered a minor business.
Move from building 48 to the Microelectronics building 59
Later when building 59 was built, the wafer fabrication, assembly and engineering functions of the bipolar part of the business were moved into the newly built building 59. The MOS group remained behind in building 48 until several years later when a MOS wafer fabrication lab was built in building 59. About this same time, the design function was transferred from Tek Labs to the MOS group.
Development of CCD business
There were several engineers led by a Chief Engineer named Dr. Morley Blouke. Morley had a number of patents related to CCDs (Charge Coupled Devices) and started designing some of these for the group. It was at this time now in the early 1990s that the group began selling these designs for electronic imaging. The first customers were major observatories around the world which used the CCDs as the digital image capture feature of cameras mounted on the telescopes. NASA became aware of the CCD group at Tektronix and issued a sub-contract through Ball Aerospace for a second generation STIS (Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph) or camera system to be installed in the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The original HST had a defective mirror which made the telescope near-sighted and the camera system was primitive compared to the capability of the Tektronix CCDs at the time. A mission was quickly designed by NASA to add a corrective lens to the HST This was done in 1993. Then an upgrade to the camera system to be higher definition using the Tektronix CCDs was completed in February 1997. Another major customer group was medical imaging which used CCDs for digital mammography (breast cancer detection).
Spinoff of CCD business
In late 1993 as Tektronix was planning to divest the Microelectronics business in building 59, they sold the CCD business to a private equity company from Kentucky. The group renamed themselves SITe (Scientific Imaging Technologies). Most of the Tektronix employees about 50 people were hired by the new company. They continued to operate from building 59 by leasing their space from Tektronix. Later in 1996, after Maxim purchased building 59 from Tektronix, SITe moved off campus to continue their business.
About the author:
Prior to joining Tektronix I had 8 years experience as an MOS design engineer at a Silicon Valley company in Mt. View, CA. I was hired at Tektronix on January 2, 1978 as an MOS product engineer to assist with the recently formed MOS products group which were being manufactured for proprietary use by Tektronix. But I reported to the Product Engineering Manager of the bipolar group in building 48 and later moved into building 59 when the IC Division moved there and was renamed the Microelectronics Division. Throughout this time, I provided engineering services for the MOS group and eventually transferred to them as an Senior Engineer. I held various positions in the group including Test and Assembly Manager and Quality Manager. A position I held when the group was spun off to SITe. I was with the new company until September 1994. When I left to join Tek Labs in building 50 as a project manager for three of the scientists with government contracts.
My life after Tektronix
In 1996, I left Tektronix and became Procurement Quality Assurance Manager for an aerospace company in Redmond, Washington. In January 2000, I moved to Oceanside, California to consider retirement there. But by June 2000, I decided to go back to work for a few more years. I became Quality Manager for Ferro Electronic Materials in Vista, California. I retired in June 2003 and moved to Henderson, Nevada. My wife and I live in a nice guard gated community next to a golf course. We enjoy the entertainment and dining options here.
The Good Old Days at Tektronix
But I will always remember Tektronix where I spent most of my working years. Since my retirement, I have visited with some of the current employees at Tek booth during the Optical Society annual conventions in San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Most of these people are newer employees and have only heard stories about the good old days at Tektronix when we had free coffee and donuts, profit sharing, pensions, lucrative vacation time (5 weeks after 15 years), and a happy working environment. I can still remember Tek President and co founder Howard Vollum walking across the parking lot in the morning to his office in building 50 because he didn't believe in having reserved parking spaces for executives. Also, his “walking around” tours to see what the engineers were inventing next. Oh, for the good old days!!!