Teradyne J259 IC Test System

Summary : This famous test system was the first truly computer-controlled IC test system.

This famous semiconductor test system was the first truly computer-controlled IC test system. Introduced in 1966 it sported the equally famous DEC PDP-8 mini-computer. With a paper-tape reader and teletype as I/O it went for the astounding price of $58,500. It was Teradyne’s runaway best seller and would solidify Teradyne’s position as a learder in the emergent IC testing market. It would compete heavily against the Fairchild 4000 and Fairchild 5000. No one really knows which company was the champion in sales. VLSI Research Inc gives Fairchild that honor from old research by its founder, but still, confirmation has never been obtained. That said, Fairchild’s operation in South Portland, Maine bought a J259 on the condition that it remain a secret. Bill Russell, a test engineer at Sprague said of the system, “Compared to the J259, the others were just junk.”

Quiz question: Why was it named the J259 rather than the I257?


Answer: It would have been the I257 except for two things, first electrical engineers tend to avoid using 'I' for anything other than electrical current, so the I in IC became a J. Second, Teradyne had a rule to use prime numbers in product names but the brochures with the mis-numbering had already been printed and it was too late to redo them. 259 is divisible by 7.  Nick DeWolf had named it the J257, but the writer changed to 259 to reflect the fact that it was an upgrade from Teradyne’s first IC tester that used discretes, the J229. Designing the J259 was a significant innovation for the day, because the reliability of Integrated Circuits was questioned in the semiconductor industry’s history. 

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  • Key Contributors: Nick DeWolf, Peter Konde, Milt Collins.
  • Industry code: 1333.22
  • © 2001 by Teradyne Inc.
    Teradyne The First Forty Years, Fred Van Veen, Page 91 photo opposite Page 190
    All Rights Reserved. Copied with permission of the Copyright Owner
  • Mfr’s Code: TER

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