Sentimental Thinking from Phil Zarrow

By Phil Zarrow – Industry Curmudgeon

“You can’t go back, you can never go back”— Don Henley

Phil Zarrow

I found myself in Schaumburg, IL the other day. While sitting at a traffic light at an intersection, I became aware that, across the street, was the Motorola Schaumburg campus. Or rather, the Motorola Schaumburg Ghost Campus.

During the 80s and 90s, Motorola was, no doubt, an icon of electronics manufacturing, including US electronics manufacturing. Among all the contributions to our industry that Motorola made, none the least was the concept of 6 Sigma.   The Schaumburg HQ was the Emerald City of this worldwide technology giant.   But there it stood, empty and abandoned – soon to, reportedly, be demolished to make way for condominiums and boutique shops.

My colleague, Jim Hall, lives in Waltham, MA. Just down I-95 from him was the Polaroid manufacturing campus. Over a period of a couple of years, we watched as they eventually demolished those buildings as well.

Just waxing nostalgic here – things change over time. The electronics OEMs have been a vanishing breed from the US landscape for a long time. There are still enough of us to remember (in the 70s and 80s) when the Chicago area was, indeed, a bastion of electronics manufacturing. Zenith had a factory there as did Xerox and GTE among others. Now that I think of it, I wonder if Millennials actually know who Xerox, Zenith, Polaroid are or were. They might know Motorola (maybe) from recent cell phones and HP from printers, but have they ever heard of Bell Labs, Digital Equipment Corporation, TI, Compaq or even, dare I say it, IBM, “Big Blue” – that timeless icon of all icons (“THINK”).

I guess it isn’t so much as, perhaps, not recognizing the names as much as remembering and appreciating the technical and conceptual contributions these OEMs of yore made to electronics and electronics manufacturing (and, in some cases, continue to make). Credit where credit is due – maybe some day colleges will include technology in their History offerings….

Remember, we’re all in this together.


Phil is President and Principal Consultant, ITM Consulting and works in electronic manufacturing processes, equipment, materials and methodology.

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