Artifact Details


Birkner, John oral history

Catalog Number



Moving image




Birkner, John, interviewee
Dennis, Eric, videographer
Jenkins, Jesse H., interviewer
Katz, Jeff, interviewer


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA




This oral history details a candid and entertaining account of John’s upbringing and professional career. John was born in Ohio, but spent most of his pre-college days in the foothills and forests of California. Much of his early education was in a one-room school house. His father had gold fever and as a result, John learned the fine art of panning for Gold in the Sierra foothills. He later stood watch in fire lookout towers and flew to new hotspots in a helicopter to put out growing fires. He developed an interest in electronics at an early age through library books.

After earning a BS at UC Berkeley, he moved to Akron Ohio to work at Goodyear Aerospace, where he gained increasing responsibility and experience designing and installing defense related electronics. He also earned an MS at the University of Akron.

He later moved onto Philco Ford and Computer Automation in southern California. His experience there in computer design made him the perfect engineer to create a new type of logic chips, named PALs (Programmable Array Logic) when he was enticed to join MMI in Silicon Valley. After a time, John moved onto co-found Quicklogic, another programmable logic device, which also enjoyed considerable success. After a stint at Xilinx, Birkner founded yet a third programmable logic company, SiliconBlue, which focused on the low power segment of the family. John’s contribution to the programmable logic industry have made him a legend in Silicon Valley.


Oral history


PAL; PALASM; QuickLogic; SiliconBlue; Computer Automation

Collection Title

CHM oral history collection


Computer History Museum

Lot Number