Atmel - History


Atmel Corporation was founded in 1984 and is based in San Jose, CA. Originally Atmel Corporation was a fabless semiconductor company designing EPROMs and PLDs that were manufactured by Sanyo.

In 1989 Atmel bought a semiconductor fab in Colorado Springs CO from Honeywell.

Atmel introduced the first 8-bit flash microcontroller in 1993, based on the 8051 core.

In 1995 Atmel opened a new fab in Rousset, France.

In 1996, a design office was started in Trondheim, Norway, to work on the AVR series of products.

In March 2008, Atmel acquired Quantum Research Group ('QRG') located near Southampton England, in order to gain entry into the capacitive touch button and touch screen market. Founded by Hal Philipp in 1996, QRG focused on using standard microcontrollers pre-programmed as touch sensors, including devices sourced from several companies including Atmel. In acquiring QRG, Atmel also gained a substantial patent portfolio and customer list related to touch sensing. Of particular note are patents relating to touch screens using mutual capacitance, matrix-based sensing topologies. In acquiring QRG, Atmel also inherited an ongoing patent lawsuit that QRG had filed against Apple Inc. in 2005 alleging infringement of one of its charge-transfer based patents in the iPod click-wheel; the case was later settled. The acquired business unit still operates near Southampton UK. Today, QRG-based capacitive touch solutions using AVR microcontrollers form a large part of Atmel's product marketing efforts.

Atmel announced the sale of its North Tyneside, (England) facility (Fab9) on October 8, 2007. The manufacturing equipment was sold to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd. (TSMC) and the property and associated land to Highbridge Business Park Limited. The closure led to the loss of 600 jobs when production ceased in early 2008.

On 2 October 2008, Atmel CEO Steven Laub announced an unsolicited offer from Microchip Technology and ON Semiconductor valued at 5 US$ per share. The offer was rejected and those companies eventually gave up their takeover attempt.

Fab 7 site in Rousset, France has gone on an indefinite strike since the 17th November 2009 following earlier strikes between September 2008 and March 2009. The present issue concerns the future of fab 7 and the previously negotiated redundancy plans in March 2009 both which according to workers and unions will no longer be honored. Previous promises by fab 7 management such as challenge 750 in 2008 whereupon the fab had to reduce its cost per wafer from $1000 to $750 were indeed achieved by fab 7 with a concluding promise that if this was met then a large investment would be accorded to fab 7. An audit in August 2008 was followed by an announcement in Feb 2009 that ASIC production would cease in fab 7 and the site would be up for sale.

In 2010, the French government gave the go-ahead for Atmel to sell the Rousset fab to LFoundry, a German company.

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