Martin "John" M. Atalla (4 August 1924 - 30 December 2009) was an engineer and entrepreneur in the field of semiconductor technology and computer data security. In recognition of his work for the Personal Identification Number System (PIN) system of information security management system, he is also referred to as the "Father of the PIN". He has been inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2009 for his contribution towards semiconductor technology.
Atalla was born in Port Said, Egypt. He studied at Cairo University in Egypt, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree. He went to the USA to study mechanical engineering at Purdue University. There he received, in 1947, his master's degree (Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and in 1949, his doctorate.
After his studies, Atalla was employed at Bell Laboratories. He researched among other things, the use of silica as a protective layer of silicon semiconductor devices. By adopting a method of growing a layer of silicon dioxide on top of a silicon wafer, Atalla was able to overcome the surface states that prevented electricity from reaching the semiconducting layer. This is known as surface passivation, a critical step that made possible the ubiquity of silicon integrated circuits. Atalla then suggested that a field effect transistor – first envisioned in the 1920s and confirmed experimentally in the 1940s but not yet achieved -- be built of metal-oxide-silicon. Atalla assigned the task to Dawon Kahng, a scientist in his group. Attalla and Kahng announced their successful MOSFET at a 1960 conference. Their research led to the development of the first metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor (MOSFET). The MOSFET has evolved since the central component of today's integrated circuits such as microprocessors and semiconductor memory. In 1961, Atalla co-founded Hewlett-Packard and Associates, which provided Hewlett Packard with fundamental solid-state capabilities, and went on to help create HP Labs, directing its solid-state division. In 1969, he went to Fairchild Semiconductor.
In 1973, he founded the Atalla Corporation that dealt with safety problems of the banking and financial institutions. He invented the so-called "Atalla Box", a security system that secures a majority of transactions from ATMs today. At this time, also Atalla invented the PIN system that has developed among others in the banking industry as the standard for identification. 1987 Atalla Corporation merged with Tandem Computers. Atalla went into retirement in 1990. But it was not long until several executives of large banks persuaded him to develop security systems for the internet to work. They were worried about the fact that no useful framework for electronic commerce would have been possible at that time without innovation in the computer and network security industry. As a result of these activities, he founded the company TriStrata (1996) and A4 system. M. Atalla was (2003) the chairman of A4 system and Lived in Atherton, California. Atalla died on December 30, 2009 in Atherton.
- "Martin Atalla in Inventors Hall of Fame, 2009". Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- "Martin M. (John) Atalla". Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- Poeter, Damon. "Inventors Hall of Fame Honors Sultans Of Silicon". Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- "Computer History Museum". Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- Atalla, Martin M. "Social Security Death Index". http://www.genealogybank.com/. genealogybank. Retrieved 22 January 2015.