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0.1. The Semiconductor Industry

Semiconductor devices such as diodes, transistors and integrated circuits can be found everywhere in our daily lives, in Walkman, televisions, automobiles, washing machines and computers. We have come to rely on them and increasingly have come to expect higher performance at lower cost.

Personal computers clearly illustrate this trend. Anyone who wants to replace a three to five year old computer finds that the trade-in value of his or her computer is surprising low. On the bright side, one finds that the complexity and performance of the today’s personal computers vastly exceeds that of their old computer and that for about the same purchase price, adjusted for inflation.

While this economic reality reflects the massive growth of the industry, it is hard to even imagine a similar growth in any other industry. For instance, in the automobile industry, no one would even expect a five times faster car with a five times larger capacity at the same price when comparing to what was offered five years ago. Nevertheless, when it comes to personal computers, such expectations are very realistic.

The essential fact which has driven the successful growth of the computer industry is that through industrial skill and technological advances one manages to make smaller and smaller transistors. These devices deliver year after year better performance while consuming less power and because of their smaller size they can also be manufactured at a lower cost per device.