What happened to Faraday Electronics?

Faraday Electronics was, for a brief period of time, a leading maker of integrated chipsets for XT-class PC clones. But if you’re fixing an old XT clone and need a Faraday chip, they can be hard to come by. Knowing what happened to Faraday Electronics can help you in locating spare parts.

Faraday Electronics isn’t the Faraday you may think you know

what happened to Faraday electronics
Faraday made a lot of integrated chipsets for late 1980s PCs. Western Digital continued production for a few years after buying Faraday in 1987 and the WDC-branded versions can sometimes be easier to find.

A number of chip companies have come and gone using the Faraday name. It’s an easy way to steal name recognition. Lots of people vaguely know who Michael Faraday was, or at least they’ve heard of his invention, the Faraday cage. Faraday, the maker of XT chipsets, ceased to exist in 1987. And the trademark wasn’t valuable enough for Western Digital to expend much energy to try to protect.

Yes, Western Digital, as in hard drives.

Western Digital purchased Faraday Electronics in 1987 for about $42 million. They saw Faraday’s chipset and motherboard business as complimentary to their own lines of business at the time.

Knowing that can be helpful. If you have an XT clone with a Faraday FE2010A chip on it, and you think that chip might be bad, don’t just search Ebay and your other sources for Faraday FE2010A. Also search for Western Digital FE2010A or WDC FE2010A.

The chip is in fairly high demand because the nuXT, a modern ATX form factor XT motherboard, uses that chip. But supplies of the chip do turn up from time to time, whether they’re salvaged chips or new old stock.

Of course this trick can work for any other random Faraday chip you may encounter. Faraday also made chipsets for 286 PCs. And if you can’t find just the chip you need, you might try rolling the dice on a motherboard containing a Faraday chipset. Sometimes supplies of those turn up too. Commodore used them on its Bridgeboards and their own PC-compatible line, but anyone who wanted to build cheap, highly integrated PCs to compete with Leading Edge needed to consider Faraday.

The market for XT clones went into sharp decline after 1990, because of Windows 3.0. Yes, technically it’s possible to coax Windows 3.0 to load on an XT, but it’s not a pleasant experience. The launch of Windows 3.0 was what made the 386 the mainstream PC, and the change happened very rapidly. So that’s why Western Digital didn’t produce those chips for very long. But they are out there.

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