Friday, July 9, 2010

A BlaSST from the Past

Stop reading! Unless you want to join me in reminiscing about the "old days" of Semicon West. Every time I'm about to head out, I have to think back to -- egad -- 1982 when I first attended. That makes this #29 for me. Back in "the day" the show was in May in San Mateo at the county fairgrounds, exhibitors were in un-airconditioned concrete buildings with woodland names like Pine, Sequoia, Redwood, Cypress and Oak Hall. There was also the Hall of Flowers (the largest building), plus a bunch of exhibitors out at The Racetrack, a dusty walk or trolley ride away. The sound of a Dixie jazz band was in the air and the concessions were straight from the fair: funnel cakes and sausages and what not.

An interesting statistic: 560 exhibitors in 1982; around 650 at this year's show.

The big news in 1982: a five man delegation from the Peoples Republic of China was there to inpsect the newest lithography equipment, exhibitors were touting equipment automation for the first time, the Japanese had "won" the 64K DRAM race but U.S. makers thought they had a shot at 256K DRAMs, the "death" of e-beam direct write was being debated. Perkin-Elmer was touting projection mask aligners with overlay accuracies to 0.5 micron, machine stabilities to 0.25 micron and resolution capabilties from 0.9-1.25 micron. Throughput was up to on hundred 125mm wafers per hour. Veeco's top of the line ion implanters were designed for 200 KeV and 400 KeV. Tencor introduced the Alpha-Step 200. Lam unveiled the AutoEtch 480, with throughput up to 60 wafers per hour (3 inch, 100mm or 125mm), and a modem for remote diagnostics.

Too early to say what the buzz will be at this year's show, but it's likely that China, memory market trends (now more SRAM than DRAM), 450mm wafers, next generation EUV lithography and 3D integration will be hot topics. Probably remote diagnostics too, now called e-diagnostics.

While reminiscing, I decided to see what I could find about the very first Semicon. In the bowels of the PennWell building, I found a 1971 April issue of Solid State Technology: 50 exhibitors. The conference included advances in thin film deposition techniques, effects of chemical impurities on semiconductor processing, memory testing and advances in assembly and handling techniques. The more things change, the more they stay the same!?

My favorite though was the descripton of the annual Semicon banquet. Scheduled to being at 6:30 pm on Wed. at the Royal Coach Inn, San Mateo, banquet entertainment will feature a fest of humorous lampoons of semiconductor executives and their industry. Elizabeth De Atley will invoke the proceedings with a tongue-in-cheek genesis of the semiconductor industry. Following her, a number of industry leaders will have a chance to roast the sponsors of the show. The major part of the show will be an original musical revue called "Jose Can IC," an amateur production with a cast of 20 actors, singers and dancers from the Peninsula semiconductor industry. Between scenes at the office, a wagon wheel, and a laboratory, the staff of San Francisco radio station KSFO will present special humorous material in the vein of their On-the-Air Broadcast."

I'm not sure if it was the same location, but I attended a similar event in 1982 (perhaps the last?) and I can say fun was had by all.

Interestingly, right below that story in April 1971 was a story that a patent had been issued to Hughes Aircraft concerning the use of silicon or other semiconducting material to replace the metal used for the gate in MOS devices. Now we're back to using metal gates -- can humorous lampooning and roasting be far behind? I hope not!

Pete Singer

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