Kopin Corporation

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
video conference

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for the American Institute of Physics, interviews John Fan, CEO and Founder of Kopin Corporation. Fan explains the origins of the name Kopin and discusses how the company has fared during the pandemic. He recounts his childhood first in Shanghai and then in Hong Kong and he discusses the opportunities leading to his undergraduate admission at UC Berkeley, where he studied electrical engineering. He describes a formative internship at the IBM Thomas Watson Lab. Fan explains his interest in pursuing a PhD at Harvard in Applied Physics and Engineering and he discusses the exciting technological developments coming online from Boston-area companies in the early 1970s. He describes his thesis research on vanadium oxide conducted under the direction of Bill Paul. Fan discusses his collaborations at MIT’s Lincoln Lab and the process of creating Kopin. He reflects on his long tenure as CEO of Kopin and emphasizes the central importance of business integrity as the key to longevity. Fan conveys his interest in wearable technologies and Kopin’s work at the cutting edge of this field, and he muses on the extent to which wearables are a harbinger for a fuller interface between biology and technology. He discusses the impact of supercomputing on Kopin’s operations, and he survey’s his contributions to LCD and LED technologies. Fan prognosticates on the long term impact of artificial intelligence and the utility of virtual reality, and at the end of the interview, he emphasizes that technology should always be applied to the fundamental effort to improving the lot of humanity.