Micron: A Timeline of DRAM Tech Pioneer Founder Appleton, Dead in Air Crash Friday

A timeline of Micron, early DRAM pioneer. Its founder, Steve Appleton, died Friday in a Boise, Idaho US plane crash. RIP – the eds.

BOISE, IDAHO: By now you probably have heard that Micron founder Steve Appleton died Friday in a plain crash in the US state of Idaho.

But do you remember Micron as a key and early PC industry pioneer? I do. So I loved this piece in the The Idaho Statesman, which broke the story, features a fine and concise timeline of Micron and its DRAM innovations. Many pioneering.
Read the entire piece and more background at the Idaho Statesman. Great work, IS staff.

The Timeline of Steve Appleton and his Micron

1960 Steve Appleton is born. He grows up in southern California.

1978 Micron is founded by three semiconductor industry veterans.

1980 The company starts building a plant on 200 acres east of Boise, using money from local investors and banks and $4 million from J.R. Simplot.

1981 With its first manufacturing plant built, Micron starts to make 64-kilobit dynamic random-access memory chips.

1983 The company has 1.5 percent of the world’s DRAM market. After attending Boise State University on a tennis scholarship, Appleton joins Micron as an operator, making less than $5 an hour.

1984 Micron goes public, offering 2.4 million shares on Nasdaq.

1985 Micron nears bankruptcy and is down to two weeks of cash as the industry slows. It halves its 1,250-person workforce. Micron sells $25 million in bonds to ease its bank debt. It pins its hopes on a new 256-kilobit DRAM chip.

1986 Micron is one of the world’s top 10 semiconductor producers.

1988 Micron has its first profitable year since 1985.

1989 Appleton joins the upper ranks of the company as an officer. The company starts building a new production plant.

1991 MPC, a Micron personal-computer division, is founded. Appleton is named president and chief operating officer. The move will “allow Micron to be more aggressive in its research and development and further advance our manufacturing process,” says Joe Parkinson, chairman.

1994 Appleton is named CEO, president and chairman, succeeding Parkinson. An $81 million expansion of the Boise campus creates hundreds of jobs.

1995 Slowing chip demand puts pressure on Micron, but the company continues to grow and earns record profits of $844 million. It starts construction on a Utah factory. Appleton warns that Micron won’t keep expanding locally if Idaho doesn’t improve engineering education at Boise State University and fix traffic problems around company headquarters.

1996 Appleton is fired in a dispute with board members, including J.R. Simplot. He is reinstated in eight days.

1998 Micron pays $65 million in taxes to Idaho. The company has 60 workers overseas; that will grow to 4,200 by 2000. Micron will spend $300 million to upgrade a Singapore plant. Intel decides to pay $500 million for 6 percent of Micron stock.

1999 The company boosts its research and development budget by $53 million.

2000 Micron starts a $200 million Boise campus expansion with plans to add 500 jobs. It posts record-breaking quarterly earnings of $727 million. Appleton announces a $20 million Micron Technology Foundation to give money to schools and charitable recipients.

2001 Micron sells MPC.

2001 TO 2004 Appleton refuses his salary to save jobs until the company reports profits again.

2002 Micron fails at buying South Korea-based Hynix Semiconductor.

2004 Appleton crashes a high-performance aerobatic plane in the desert south of Boise. He is flown to a hospital by helicopter. Federal officials say “pilot error” during “an aerobatic maneuver” caused the crash.

2005 The company posts a $188 million profit for the fiscal year. Appleton attributes the success to “product diversification.” The company cuts a joint venture deal with Intel Corp. to make memory used in digital cameras, cellphones and MP3 players.

2007 Appleton earns about $1 million in pay. Micron cuts about 1,100 employees. Appleton relinquishes the title of president to Mark Durcan.

2008 A slump fueled by the economic crisis and product oversupply gives Micron its eighth-straight quarterly loss. The company cuts officer salaries by 20 percent and lays off about 1,500 local workers. Economists worry Micron will leave. Appleton pledges to keep research and development in Boise. Micron buys a share of the Inotera plant in Taiwan.

2009 Appleton endorses Obama’s economic stimulus plan. Micron ends chip manufacturing in Boise, cutting an additional 2,000 jobs. The company’s Idaho employment is down to 5,200 by year-end. Appleton and Durcan take 10 percent pay cuts. Micron sells a majority stake in its imaging business, Aptina. It signs a deal with Australian Origin Energy to make solar power components. Micron finally turns its first quarterly profit since 2006 — “an incredible way to celebrate Christmas,” says Gov. Butch Otter. Appleton says that “just to survive” a down market is a success.

2010 Appleton predicts only two or three of the world’s 11 memory chip producers will last, and “the majority of our competition is not in very good shape.” The company buys Swiss electronic device memory maker Numonyx Holdings B.V. for $1.2 billion. Annual profits hit a record $1.9 billion. Micron signs a patent cross-licensing deal with competitor Samsung. Appleton takes a 10 percent raise and bonuses for the first time since 2007.

2011 Micron wins a long-fought antitrust lawsuit. Appleton says Micron will expand NAND flash memory and chip combinations. Falling chip prices and weak consumer sales end a string of six profitable quarters. The company looks ahead to a new memory cube.

2012 In January, Durcan says he’ll step down in August as Micron’s second-highest executive. Mark W. Adams, vice president of worldwide sales, is named to succeed Durcan.

A week later, Feb 3, 2012, Appleton is killed when his high-performance plane crashes at the Boise Airport. Durcan is named interim CEO.

Our regrets and wishes go to the Appleton family, his colleagues and friendly. I knew Steve. I’ll miss him. – eic.