Artifact Details


Richardson, Fontaine K. oral history

Catalog Number





Fontaine Richardson was born in Arkansas in 1941. His father was a professor with a PhD in math and served in the Army during WWII. His mother played the piano and organ and the whole family loved music. Richardson played trombone, was a ham radio operator, and was student body president in high school. He graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BS and MS in mathematics. Also while there, he got introduced to computing with an IBM 650.

After a summer working at Continental Oil in Oklahoma, he and his new wife moved so that they could both attend the University of Illinois. Richardson pursued a PhD in computer science and his wife in home economics. His thesis involved using flow charts constructed on a primitive workstation.

After graduating in 1968, Richardson went to work at Lincoln Labs near Boston. While there he got involved in early design automation efforts for integrated circuits as well as mask pattern generation. Through the teaching of Ed Roberts at the Sloan School, he became interested in starting his own company. They came up with the idea of a family of electronic design automation tools.

In 1969, they were able to raise $400,000 from the W. R. Grace Co. to launch their new venture, Applicon. Later on they gained additional financing from Matsushita. Amid many of the normal startup struggles, they were able to get the company off the ground and ship a portion of the original product plan. Richardson details the series of challenges the company faced in tackling a new, evolving market. The company eventually went public in 1980, after which Fontaine left the company. Richardson subsequently served on the Board of Mentor Graphics as well as other consulting assignments, including a venture capital fund.




Fairbairn, Doug, Interviewer
Fortier, James, Videographer
Richardson, Fontaine K., Interviewee


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, California


34 p.



Copyright Holder

Computer History Museum




Applicon; Calma Company; Computervision; Lincoln Laboratory; Roberts, Ed; Sutherland, Bert; semiconductor history

Collection Title

Oral history collection


Computer History Museum

Lot Number


Related Records

102739944 Richardson, Fontaine K. oral history