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Texas Instruments History

Eugene McDermott and John Clarence Karcher founded the Geophysical Service in Dallas, Texas, in May 1934, to use seismographic equipment for oil exploration. Later it became known as Coronado Corporation, keeping Geophysical Service Inc. as a subsidiary.

In December 1941 Coronado was sold and Eugene McDermott, John Erik Jonsson, Cecil Green and HB Peacock bought the Geophysical Services division. The day after the purchase went through Pearl Harbor was attacked and America entered the second world war.

Geophysical Service was able to use its detection expertise to help the US Navy to locate enemy submarines and the business grew. In 1951 the company was renamed General Instruments Incorporated, but it was soon changed again to Texas Instruments.

In 1958 a Texas Instruments employee, Jack St Clair Kilby, was one of the co-inventors of the integrated circuit. (There is disagreement as to who produced the first true integrated circuit. Kilby's was the first to be patented but a few months later Robert Noyce, who went on to found Intel, patented a different style of integrated circuit which was easier to manufacture.)

The Canon Pocketronic pocket calculatorIn 1967 Texas Instruments produced the first hand-held electronic calculator, and in 1970, in conjunction with Canon, made the first commercial pocket calculator (if you had a large pocket), the Pocketronic right. The Pocketronic used a thermal paper printer for its display, and at $395 you needed deep pockets as well as large.

In November 1979 Texas Instruments joined the home computer revolution with its TI 99/4 model, which used the company's TMS9900 microprocessor, the world's first 16-bit processor. Sales of the TI 99/4 were limited by its high price (partly due to its always being sold with a monitor) but the later and cheaper TI 99/4A of 1981, which could be connected to a domestic television, sold quite well. Bill Cosby fronted the television advertising campaign for Texas Instruments.

TI launched the Compact Computer 40, a battery powered portable, in 1983 but it did not sell in large numbers. Price cutting by competitors, especially Commodore, in the rapidly saturating low-end home computer market in 1983 forced Texas Instruments to drop the price of the TI 99/4A so much they were losing money on it, and on 13th October 1983 Texas Instruments announced they were withdrawing from the home computer market. Existing stock continued to be sold into 1984 and eventually the TI 99/4A was dumped on the market at well below cost price, which ironically produced a surge in popularity and demand for third-party software and peripherals from new users.

Texas Instruments remains a very large manufacturer of integrated circuits, especially digital signal processors, employs over 35,000 staff and has an annual turnover of around $13 billion.
The TI Voyage 200 pocket calculatorTexas Instruments are also one of the few companies still producing pocket calculators, including the top-of-the-range Voyage 200 which, with its QWERTY keyboard, 128x240 pixel display, over 2 megabytes of memory and ability to solve equations algebraically, would outperform the home computers of the TI 99/4's era.

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