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Sr. Charles Litton - Litton Corporation

The origins of the modern computer and the Silicon Valley petri dish of computer innovation can be found in the tinkerings and musings of a few talented computer hobbyists who started playing with vacuum tubes in the 1930s. The first significant of these hobbyists was the remarkable Charles Litton, Sr. His story starts at Stanford University, which was at the time trying to build up a reputation to rival MITs on the East Coast. The dean of engineering at that time was Frederick Terman, who also mentored Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, and helped many of his students start technology businesses. Terman and his first group of student entrepreneurs became the core of Silicon Valley.

Charles Litton Sr. was a talented American radio amateur and professional engineer who developed a wide variety of technologies for his company, Litton Industries. During his years at Stanford University in the 1920s, he learned how to blow glass vacuum tubes, at the time a hugely important industry for the radio technology world.

But like all great scientists, Litton was not happy with this. He thought he could do better. So he invented a tool that he could use to mass-produce glass radio transmitting tubes and, ultimately, certain other glass-based radio components. In 1932, he started a business called Litton Industries, a small electronics company that grew rapidly.

Later, he helped Raytheon develop the magnetron tube based on his own earlier work. This was a more critical development than it may have originally seemed. The magnetron was a microwave-generating electron tube based partly on the design of the radio vacuum tube. By using microwaves generated from this, radar ranges were vastly increased, leading to the development of effective defense against Germany by land and by sea.

Litton Industries, because of its recognized technological ability and large value of government defense contracts, grew rapidly after World War II ended and the Cold War began.

At the same time Litton Industries was growing, another company was growing in the mind of Charles Bates Tex Thornton. Thorntons first company, chartered in 1953, was Electro Dynamics Corporation. Thornton bought out Litton Industries the next year, and because Litton was a more recognized name, adopted Litton Industries as the name of the newly-blended entity.

Charles Littons influence extended far beyon Litton Industries. He was one of the original technological magicians behind the remarkable Silicon Valley, where many of the most significant electronics and biomedical technologies of the world were developed in the second half of the twentieth century. Before Litton and other Stanford University radio nerds started working in the Valley, the bulk of electronics and technological development was found on the East Coast, under venerable names like General Electric and RCA.

Littons company was the first of many waves of innovation and development that swept through the central California culture, gradually transforming the area into the computing powerhouse it is today. Charles Litton developed the technology behind the infrastructure of Silicon Valley. Today, this area is a model that many regions throughout the world try to duplicate, sometimes successfully. And Littons life cannot be separated from the history of Silicon Valley.

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Catherine  Litton1   (1/9/2007)
I believe Sir Charles Litton to be my great or great uncle. My Grandparents, Frederick and Lucille litton came back to England from America in 1955, my father John Frederick Litton was two at the time. Im trying to trace members of my American family. My father John Frederick Litton died in 2001. email

John  Jensen2   (4/26/2007)
This is addressed to Catherine Litton.Catherine, Charles Litton was never knighted. That should read Charles Litton Sr. as in Senior. He was generally referred to as Charlie Litton. One of his sons is Charles Litton Jr.But there was a Sir Charles Litton, at least in several of the Pink Panther films (as played by David Niven).

scott brown3   (10/10/2007)
In the 1970s their was Probate case naming the Litton descendants of America. It seems a Litton had died and left his estate to the family, so they had to trace the American Litton descendants. Does anyone know the name on this estate case and where filed and when? Thank you, doing school report on our Litton ancestral line, scott , email

Carl  Litton4   (9/24/2008)
I have a fair amount of Litton history in the US. Email thedawntreaderATbellsouthDOTnet.

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