Manuel “Manny” Fernandez served as president of Zilog, Inc. after the departure of co-founder Ralph Ungermann. Fernandez guided the company during the development of their LAN product, ZNet.
Fernandez earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Florida in 1967. After working as an engineer at ITT and Harris Corporation, he eventually moved to Fairchild Semiconductor, where he became Group Executive Vice President. Fernandez came to Zilog in ’77. The company had just introduced its Z80 processor, but sales were less than $5 million. By the time he left in ’81, Zilog’s sales were over $100 million, based largely on the success of the Z80, but also on the many peripheral chipsets developed by Zilog. For example, the Macintosh SE, although it used the Motorola 68000 processor, contained several peripheral chip sets from Zilog. As Fernandez states, “Actually, there are probably more dollars of Zilog parts inside a Mac [SE] than there are of Motorola’s”.
In this interview, Fernandez gives additional insights on the emerging LAN industry, one that Zilog was pursuing during his time as president, but one that he chose not to focus on. Their main focus was semiconductors and Fernandez saw the two markets of components and systems working together to help Zilog sell more chips. The third market, the emerging networking market, did not create the same demand for semiconductors. In his words, “it was a third leg of a stool that was kind of dangling.” Fernandez offers an executive’s overview of the microprocessor industry at a time when the LAN industry was just beginning, revealing insights as to why many of the larger computer companies were slow to get in on the networking market.
Manny and I met each other when he was president of Gavilan Computers and I was president of Sorcim. At that time we negotiated a contract that would have a number of Sorcim products bundled in the Gavilan computer. When we met for this interview we had both moved on to new positions. Manny was president of Dataquest and it was there that this interview was held. The Dataquest market research was the very best for understanding the three market sectors covered in this book. Our knowing each other made this interview very comfortable and Manny was very forthcoming with his understanding of these markets. After the interview he let me spend time in their library to make copies of their reports and data that I needed, which was very helpful to grounding this book in real numbers.
Keywords: Zilog, ZNet, Z80, Z8000