Much of the historical research on the development of the semiconductor industry has focused on the USA. However, semiconductor research was also well established in Europe and elsewhere, and companies outside the USA made many early types of integrated circuit. This page concentrates on those made in the UK. Information is scarce about this period, when in fact the UK semiconductor industry was already struggling.
The big three of UK transistor manufacture were Mullard (part of Philips), the General Electric Company of England (GEC, no connection with General Electric in the USA), and Standard Telephones and Cables (STC, owned at the time by ITT). Of these only Mullard was destined to become a significant manufacturer of integrated circuits, but other UK companies did, specifically Ferranti and Plessey.
Most of the material below is derived from the book 'ANGLO-AMERICAN MICROELECTRONICS DATA 1968-69' edited by Dummer and Mackenzie Robertson. This used to be downloadable from the Web in two volumes: 'Manufacturers A-P' and 'Manufacturers R-Z'. It has chapters for the following UK firms:
I concentrate on companies with monolithic IC products, although I list some hybrids that they also produced. If you know more about early UK ICs or their manufacturers please
Dummer lists 4 series of monolithic ICs sold by Elliot Automation:
A major UK manufacturer of ICs was Ferranti, an electrical engineering company with a long history of working on government and military contracts. They manufactured a large number of silicon transistors and diodes for use in such projects, and successfully moved on to integrated circuits.
Like others, their first foray into ICs was via hybrid circuits. Their LCE devices are described as
hybrid digital logic circuit elements made up of thin-film passive elements and discrete planar semiconductor devices. The passive components are deposited on the surface of a glass substrate, hermetically sealed with one or more fused glass superstrates and interconnected with superimposed, photo-etched silver and gold plated copper patterns. The passive components are terminated along the long edges of the substrate by means of lands to which the leads of a 13-lead header are soldered. The header, substrate and leads are bonded with epoxy resin so that electrical connection between the passive chip and the leads is unaffected by thermally or mechanically induced stresses. The header securely holds the various packaged transistors, providing a modest heat sink for the semiconductors, and a suitable structural form for the finished microcircuit. The completed micro-circuit can be affixed to printed circuit or multilayer boards by conventional manufacturing methods.
Dummer and Mackenzie Robertson includes the following ranges:
They also made linear circuits in three 'Multilin' ranges, in large metal packaging, described as
Multilin is a system of hybrid micro-electronics combining thin film passive components with integrated circuits and transistors. A particular feature of the construction is that the integrated circuits are mounted so as to ensure good heat transfer to the base of the can which is important where appreciable power has to be dissipated. Each Multilin comprises a gold plated nilo-K can into which are hermetically sealed the silicon integrated active elements and thin film passive components. Connection to the external circuit is by gold plated nickel leads brought out through glass-to-metal seals. The integrated circuits are usually functional elements from the Ferranti Microlin and Micronor ranges and are formed in an epitaxially grown layer of silicon on a silicon substrate by double diffusion of impurities using the well proved planar process which ensures protection of the active surface at all stages. Careful layout of the integrated circuit pattern, coupled with accurate control of diffusion, gives excellent matching and tracking of the constituent components. Interconnections are made by metal deposition under high vacuum. Each functional element is mounted on a ceramic substrate of special composition to give the correct thermal characteristics. Gold pads on the substrate facilitate connection to the passive component substrates.
Dummer and Mackenzie Robertson includes the following ranges:
The book 'The Semiconductor Business: The Economics of Rapid Growth and Decline' by Franco Malerba' states that
In 1962 Ferranti developed the Microlin and Micronor I devices for small computers and in 1965 it developed the high-speed Micronor II DTL (based on RCA technology) for Ferranti's process-control computers.
Micronor I contains some quite bizarre circuits, and a correspondent who worked on Micronor II told me that it was designed to remedy the failings of the first family. Micronor I is hard to find, but my image shows type ZST2, which is a 'dual lamp/relay power driver'.
Micronor II was used in some early Ferranti Argus computers, such as this Argus 400.
Ferranti went on to make many ICs in standard plastic DIL packaging, such as this ZN244E. It is a DTL dual 4-input NOR power gate.
If you know more about early Ferranti ICs please
Dummer seems to have been somewhat confused about Marconi, perhaps not surprising considering the mess that the English electrical industry had become. The book lists a lot of Ferranti Micronor II under Marconi, which is simply wrong. It also includes
The image shows a 316-04 for which I have no data. If you know where I might find any, or know anything about Marconi ICs, please
Mullard Limited became a successful UK manufacturer of ICs, albeit that they were wholly owned by Philips of The Netherlands. Mullard produced several ranges of ICs; Dummer lists:
Dummer omits a rather obscure earlier range that Mullard manufactured:
Another major UK IC manufacturer was the Plessey company. Their subsidiary, Semiconductors Limited, made a number of ranges of germanium and silicon transistors but they reverted to Plessey branding even before ICs came in. Dummer and Mackenzie Robertson lists some of their earliest ICs:
- The SL20 series of single chip solid circuit amplifiers, offers a range of high frequency amplifiers which are based on a simple feedback transistor pair. It comprises SL20, SL21, SL22, SL23 and SL24.
- The SL500 series are silicon monolithic epitaxial integrated circuit wideband amplifiers, intended primarily for use in linear radar I.F. strips operating at centre frequencies between 10 and 60 MHz. There are 10 members in the series.
- The SL700 series are monolithic epitaxial solid circuit high-gain d. c. amplifiers intended primarily for use as operational amplifiers or in instrumentation applications. There are 5 members in the series.
- The SL201B is a silicon, single chip, integrated circuit 2-transistor direct-coupled amplifier.
- The SL521A, B & C are silicon monolithic epitaxial integrated circuit wideband amplifier units intended primarily for use in successive detection logarithmic I.F. strips.
These come in either round metal cans or flatpacks. The image shows SL201B. If you know where I might find any of the SL20 series please
Standard Telephones and Cables
STC was a leading UK manufacturer of discrete semiconductors. When it came to ICs, they were slow to move to monolithic types. Dummer only lists thick- and thin- film hybrid circuits. However, I have an STC data book from 1962 that lists a small number of 'integrated circuits' containing germanium tunnel diodes in a CK series.
If you know where I might find any of them please (Beware that ICs marked STC may have been made by the US company Silicon Transistor Corporation).
NKT also was a leading UK manufacturer of discrete semiconductors, and also dabbled in custom hybrid microcircuits. However I have no documentation that they made monolithic ICs. However I do have the IC shown, type LIC709C5. I believe that this must be a version of the µA709 operational amplifier, arguably the second monolithic op-amp ever created, by Fairchild in 1965. Who made this one and why it is branded NKT is unknown to me.
If you know anything about this, please
There may well be other early UK ICs that I have missed.
If you know of any, please