The story of the team behind the chip that launched a revolution
John Paivinen Founder & President, MOS Technology
John Paivinen was a founder and the President MOS Technology who welcomed the team of eight former Motorola employees assembled by his former colleague at General Electric, Chuck Peddle, to begin working on a low cost microprocessor at his company.
Sadly, John passed away in 2010. The following biography was written by his wife, Carol:
John Paivinen was born in Chicago in 1924 to Finnish immigrant parents--a carpenter and a cook. The family moved to Sault Ste. Marie, MI when John was a teenager. After his father died in a sawmill accident his mother opened a hamburger stand where John helped and played the accordion to entertain the customers. He also played the trombone in a small jazz band.
After high school graduation he went to the University of Michigan on a scholarship. But he had to leave after a year to go to Detroit as his mother needed surgery and his help. Here he worked in an auto factory until he was drafted and served in the US Army Signal Corp for four years during World War II. When the war was over John attended the University of Michigan on the GI bill. Having served in the Signal Corp he became interested in electrical engineering and ended up with a Masters Degree in Math and Electrical Engineering. He then married Carol Zobian and, in 1951, moved to Philadelphia to take a job with the Burroughs Corp.
This was followed by a series of moves from project to project with various companies:
1956-59: General Electric in Palo Alto, CA where he was a key member on the Bank of Americas ERMA (Electronic Recording Machine, Accounting) project, one of the earliest transistorized commercial computers.
1959-63: IT&T (International Telephone & Telegraph) as Manager of Engineering on the government project building the SAC (Strategic Air Command) Fail Safe Computer System.
1963 Back to General Electric in Phoenix, AZ as Manager of Engineering in the new Computer Dept.
1964-66 John took a job as President of Advanced Scientific Instruments in Minneapolis, Minn.
Always looking ahead to new technologies, he next he took a summer course at the Univ. of Illinois in semiconductors which led to his next move:
1966-69 as President of the semi-conductor division of General Instruments on Long Island, NY
In 1969 he left GI and founded MOS Technology with several others from GI with the help of capital from Allen-Bradley. With the check from Allen- Bradley, they started building the plant and hiring engineers in Valley Forge, PA where the 6502 processor was developed.
After MOS Tech was sold to Commodore, John took some temporary jobs with Burroughs in Detroit and Fairchild in California. In 1980 and in partnership with Chuck Peddle and former Commodore Computer CFO, Chris Fisch, John founded a personal computer company in Scotts Valley, CA called Sirius Systems, which created the Victor 9000 personal computer. As competition from larger companies such as IBM heated up, the company closed.
Retirement included consulting for venture capital and then enjoying spending time with his family and travelling with them and friends.