NXP Semiconductors

NXP Semiconductors chip

NXP Semiconductors, formerly Philips Semiconductors, has a deep and diverse history in Silicon Valley. That history began with Signetics, which became Philips Semiconductors in 1993 and then NXP in 2006, when parent company Philips Electronics sold its semiconductor division to a consortium of private equity firms.

Signetics was the first company in the world to be established for the exclusive purpose of developing, manufacturing, and distributing integrated circuits (ICs). Today, NXP creates semiconductors, system solutions, and software that deliver better sensory experiences to consumers using mobile phones, personal media players, TVs, set-top boxes, identification applications, in-car entertainment, and a wide range of other electronic devices and systems.

Signetics was formed in September 1961 by a group of scientists and engineers working at Fairchild Semiconductor. David Allison, David James, Lionel Kattner, and Mark Weisenstern were among the early pioneers of IC technology. Like Fairchild’s founders before them, and generations of entrepreneurs to come, they struck out on their own, calling their new company Signetics, a contraction of “signal network ICs.” Signetics was an early innovator in digital logic, with many of its logic circuits becoming industry standards. Within a year of the company’s founding, its first family of bipolar digital diode transistor logic circuits gained market acceptance and found initial application in military and space systems. Among the company’s early innovations were the 555 timer, Dolby circuits, and the programmable read-only memory.

NXP Semiconductors

In November of 1962, Corning Glass Works purchased a majority interest in Signetics. For the next few years, all company operations, including manufacturing, R&D, and administration, were carried out in Sunnyvale, California. However, by the mid-1960s, the need to increase production levels compelled the company to establish its first off-site plant. Signetics became the first IC company to receive both Minuteman approval, in 1967, and NASA line certification, in 1970.

In the early 1970s, then-company president Charles Harwood initiated a revolutionary quality program, which was followed in 1985 by a “zero defects” warranty on all Signetics products—Signetics was the first IC company to offer such a warranty. That program, still actively implemented within NXP, has become an industry model.

By the mid-1970s, Signetics had become a broad-based supplier of its major IC product lines and went public for a short while, from 1973 to 1975. In June 1975 the company was purchased by U.S. Philips Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of N.V. Philips of the Netherlands. Philips Semiconductors then extended its base in Silicon Valley by acquiring VLSI Technologies, an ASIC semiconductor company, in 1999. In 2001 the company transferred all Silicon Valley– based activities to its campus in San Jose.

NXP Semiconductors now employs more than 1,700 people in North America in four main locations: San Jose, California; Tempe, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Fishkill, New York. San Jose is currently home to the company’s North America Sales Force and two of its many business groups: the connectivity business group and the standard products IC group. The Fishkill facility is a U.S.-based fabricator, producing high quality semiconductors for a broad range of consumer and mobile phone applications.

This history was written in 2008 by the Silicon Valley Historical Association.

NXP Semiconductors website