In 1920 the American scientist and industrialist Sherman Fairchild invented and developed a novel camera shutter/lens system and associated timing mechanism that enabled accurate aerial photography for the first time. He parlayed that success into the development of several aircraft companies as well as the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp. In 1957, Fairchild provided the venture capital to a group of engineers to start Fairchild Semiconductor in California. This was the beginning of “Silicon Valley” as it has come to be known.
Based upon initial work being done at Bell Labs, a group of engineers began to develop the CCD concept within the Fairchild Semiconductor R&D building in Palo Alto, CA. The first commercially available CCD was produced in 1970. Soon thereafter, a contract was signed to provide the 3 branches of the military with the first solid state television compatible image sensor. It was to be mounted into a cockpit television system (CTVS). With this early success, the CCD group was broken out into a separate division from the rest of the R&D group. This group produced many of the first image sensors used in both commercial and military applications.
In 1979, Fairchild Semiconductor was purchased by Schlumberger Ltd. A re-organization was completed in 1982 and the CCD Imaging group was combined with another Fairchild company in Syosset, New York to become Fairchild Weston Systems. The entire company was subsequently acquired by Loral Corp in 1989. 1996 saw the acquisition by Lockheed Martin followed by the acquisition by BAE Systems in 2000. In 2001, a management buyout supported by venture capital from the Carlyle Group was completed and an independent Fairchild Imaging was born. The company was re-acquired by BAE Systems in 2011.