THE CHIP WAR by Fred Warshofsky


The Battle for the World of Tomorrow
Email this review


Integrated circuits, which incorporate hundreds, even thousands of diodes, transitors, and other components on a single tiny chip of semiconductor material, are the building blocks of the aerospace age. Applications range from consumer and commerical goods (including personal computers) through sophisticated weapons systems. Warshofsky (The Rebuilt Man, 1965; The 21st Century, 1969; etc.) here offers a cautionary overview on the global state of the art, which sheds considerable light on how trade wars are really waged. The author's thesis--that US industry risks permanent also-ran status if its manufacturers of semiconductor devices do not regain the lead they lost to Japan during the 1970's--is by no means original. Nor are most of his proposed solutions--e.g., more joint ventures, mergers that would provide in-house outlets for merchant producers during cyclical slumps in demand, and financial or other incentives to encourage development of advanced technology in stateside rather than offshore venues. Warshofsky does, though, offer a scrupulously documented, absorbing rundown that puts the implications as well as the dimensions of the problem facing corporate America into clear perspective. Drawing on interviews with top industry people, trade journals, the business press, and other sources, the author traces the fast-paced evolution of solid-state electronics from the 1948 invention of the transistor to the present, when vendors that offer already powerful microprocessors can envision chips with millions of active devices. Along the way, he assesses the chances of Asian, European, and US suppliers in the high-stakes rivalry for market ascendancy. In this context, Warshofsky has high, if guarded, hopes for SEMATECH (Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology Institute), a consortium founded and funded by government and industry to devise fabrication techniques that will help domestic suppliers compete more effectively in the marketplace they created. An anecdotal and accessible briefing on the national interest in how well high-tech enterprise can play catch-up.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1989
ISBN: 684-18927-5
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online: