The payoff for being a patient investor is that you'll generally get a second shot at a lot of stocks if you're just willing to bide your time. Such would seem to be the case with many tech stocks like National Semiconductor (NYSE:NSM). Although this slide in the markets hasn't been fun, it has made for some interesting second chance opportunities.

Regular readers know that I wouldn't be favorable on this chipmaker again unless the company was continuing to follow through with its plans to do an all-around better job. To that end, fourth-quarter earnings reported after the bell yesterday saw revenue up more than 22% and bookings rising 29%. Better still, gross margins continue to improve as the company finds success with the efforts to steer away from the lower margin business of yesteryear(s).

And that's not all. Inventory also seems to be in pretty good shape at both the distributor and company level. It also seems to me that management is being more intelligent and savvy with its allocation of resources -- normally, I'd be a little concerned about the relatively low increase in R&D spending, but the numbers can be misleading. True, the absolute dollars aren't changing much, but the company is moving more dollars to high-value products and shrinking the investment in less promising products.

For better or worse, National Semiconductor is kind of your basic semiconductor company: supplying analog and mixed-signal chips for a variety of applications. And maybe that's part of the reason why investors are worried about book-to-bill ratios one year, gross margins the next, and inventory levels after that. After all, it's a competitive space, with companies like Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN), Analog Devices (NYSE:ADI), Intersil (NASDAQ:ISIL), and many others competing for the love of customers, analysts, and investors.

I'm certainly bullish on the long-term future of semiconductors. It's old hat these days to observe that just about every electric device has more chips today than it did 10 years ago. And it's equally true that there will be new chip-using devices in the future -- Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod didn't exist all that long ago, and I'm sure there will be some new must-have gizmo later this decade.

But being bullish on a sector doesn't automatically translate into being bullish on certain stocks. In this case, though, I think the whacking in the Nasdaq has created another buying opportunity. National isn't my favorite chipmaker out there, but it's certainly at least worth considering as it continues to improve itself.

For more chippy Foolishness:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson but has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).