Chip making technology is the latest driver of economic progress and provides a dominating power to the countries which possess it. It is like what nuclear weapons did to the second world war and how the crude oil became central to geopolitics in the recent past.
This book is not only about the war. The first half of this book is about the biography of the semiconductor industry. What was initially meant for defense equipment and space program of the US, found way into personal computers. As Moore’s law came into play, chip volumes grew as their prices were reduced and new applications & devices got built. Chips with increasing computing capacity were soon to be found everywhere from handheld devices to servers and they became integral part of many equipment control systems. As they moved from lab to commercial market worldwide, many billion-dollar companies got created in the chip industry. Competition among them shaped the industry, while benefitting consumers.
Though chip making took birth in the Silicon Valley of the US, it found a strong contender in Japan in the 80’s and 90’s. A decade later, South Korean companies began making their presence felt with raging price wars. And later the chip making process was honed to perfection by TSMC in Taiwan. While the dominance got moved from one country to another, there were many failed attempts too. Russia had missed the bus despite its many attempts which did not yield desired results. China did not want to be left behind. It’s huge investments during last few years has multiplied the chip making capacity it has on its land. It did not go all well for China as geopolitics came into play and the restrictions to acquire latest chip making technology began to hinder its ambitions to rule the chip market.
Technological progress drives the costs down in this industry. And the progress comes from the combined effort of end device makers, chip makers, equipment makers and their suppliers. It is hard to duplicate the entire ecosystem and the interplay between them. This book makes you aware of all of those things.
If you happen to be working in the semiconductor industry, you will enjoy reading this well-written book. Its style is a mix of a biography book and that of a popular science book. You will not only know about the companies in this industry, but also the people who made it possible and the personalities of many founders and technologists as they influenced the outcome. This book is not to be read in a single sitting as it packs lots of information which can be digested well when read slowly and pondered over.