COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado -- Richard Petritz, one of the pioneers of the semiconductor industry, died Monday (April 28) according to a report in The Gazette of Colorado Springs. He was 80, the report said.
Petritz turned down the opportunity to work with William Shockley at Bell Labarotories, one of the three people credited with inventing the transistor, according to the report.
Instead, after time in academia and at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Petritz began his commercial engineering career with Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments, who is credited with co-inventing the integrated circuit, before going on to found a series of companies with Colorado Springs facilities.
Petritz began working at Texas Instruments in 1958 and later took over its semiconductor R&D laboratories. In 1969 he came to Colorado Springs and helped found Mostek Corp., which became a major DRAM maker before ultimately being acquired by United Technologies. In 1977 Petritz helped found Inmos Ltd., a British microprocessor and memory producer. He founded Simtek Corp. in 1987 before retiring in 1998.
"He was a giant in the semiconductor industry, a true visionary and entrepreneur," the report quoted Gary Derbenwick, president of Colorado Springs-based Celis Semiconductor. Derbenwick co-founded Simtek with Petritz.
Petritz' credibility as a U.S. chip industry veteran helped persuade the British government to invest $50 million in a state-owned, chip company in 1977. Bristol-based Inmos had innovative and unusual ideas based around a processor intended for parallel processing called the transputer. The company received a further $50 million of U.K. state investment in 1980 despite a lack of enthusiasm within the newly-appointed Conservative administration under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.
One of Inmos's most successful projects was the manufacture of SRAMs in Colorado Springs. It was the profits from this production that the company used to help bring its transputer device to market.
Inmos expanded to employ 2,400 in England and Colorado Springs before Thorn EMI Ltd., a British company, was encouraged by Prime Minister Thatcher to buy Inmos in 1984, taking it off the U.K. government's books.
Thorn EMI sold Inmos to SGS-Thomson in exchange for an equity stake in the Franco-Italian chipmaker which later became STMicroelectronics.