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Advertising Archive - Victor 3900

Victor 3900 Advertisement
Late 1965

The Victor 3900 was a failed attempt to market a "Large Scale" MOSFET (Metal-Oxide Semiconductor Field- Effect Transistor) integrated circuit-based electronic calculator before the technology was developed enough to be successful. Victor did not have the integrated circuit technology at the time, and turned to a newly-formed start-up company, a spinoff of Fairchild Semiconductor, called General Micro-electronics, Inc. (GM-E). GM-E was founded by former Fairchild employees who felt that MOSFET IC technology was the future of integrated circuits, but were frustrated at attempts to get Fairchild to buy into developing the technology. The folks that founded GM-E were correct with their assertion that MOS integrated circuits were the future, but the technology to reliably produce such devices hadn't yet caught up with their vision.

At the time that Victor was developing the 3900 (beginning in late 1963), electronic calculators all used discrete transistor circuitry. Even by the time it went to market (October, 1965), integrated circuits were still just coming to commercial reality, with small-scale bipolar silicon (not MOS) devices being used mainly in military and high-end computer equipment.

The IC's made by GM-E for the Victor 3900 stretched the technology too far, proving to be very prone to failure. In many cases, the machine wouldn't function brand new out of the box. Victor had to scramble to placate frustrated customers by providing high-end loaner (or in some cases, free replacement) electromechanical calculators to keep the customers from revolting. In the end, most of the machines sold were taken out of service soon after sale. Victor suffered tremendous losses, both financial, and in market reputation as a result of this folly.

The failure of the 3900 kept Victor out of the electronic calculator market for almost four years, by which time small-scale IC technology had advanced sufficiently for the idea to be resurrected, resulting in the Victor 1400-series machines.