Friday, May 2, 2008

The last unexplored country in semiconductor land

I have been involved with semiconductors for 35 years. In college I fabricated solar cells and laser diodes on one inch wafers. I started my career at Texas Instruments during the conversion from three inch MOS wafers to four inches. Minimum feature size was 5um (or 5000 nanometers). The 16K DRAM was struggling to reach cost effective yield and the 64K would prove to be an opportunity for TI to bury a hundred million dollars in the West Texas sand, before moving the entire project to Japan.
Today the train known as Moore's Law, has dropped most of it's cars. After Intel, TI, TSMC, & UMC there aren't many fabs that can afford to travel down the line to 45nm, 32nm or 22nm. There really is a point where quantum effects say "Stop, Backup, Find some other way to compute". Molecular/genetic solutions may provide the next "quantum" leap in compute power but you need to be majoring in biochemistry if you want that career path. In the meantime, architecture may be the last not-fully-explored territory left in this business.

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