THE CONQUEST OF THE MICROCHIP by Hans Queisser

THE CONQUEST OF THE MICROCHIP

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The story of the scientific breakthrough that led to what Queisser (director, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research) calls ""The Age of Silicon""--i.e., of the quartz microchip, integral to modern military weaponry, the space program, computers, video games, etc. Queisser explains the structure and atomic properties of crystal that make it better than metal for electrical conduction, how near-flawless silicon and other crystals are grown in the lab, and how a single silicon wafer is imprinted with hundreds of identical integrated circuits, which are then sawed off into individual chips. He traces the history of the ""electronic revolution"" from alchemy to the wartime invention of radar, which used the crystal geranium and gave new impetus to solid state physics. He takes us into the Bell Labs, where, under the aegis of William Shockley, the first crystal transistor was developed. We follow Shockley to what was to become Silicon Valley(where Queisser joined him). Although Shockley failed as an entrepreneur, a number of young scientists who went off on their own developed the microchip and microprocessor. Queisser deals in considerable detail with Japan's triumph in the microchip market, but he also sees great possibilities in optoelectronics, which has spawned fiber-optic telephone systems, remote-control TV devices, and laser diode video discs. He further suggests that IBM's recently invented superconducting crystal, which transmits electric currents at a 100% efficiency, could trigger ""a massive revolution in electricity."" Although not on a par with Tracey Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine, Queisser's lucid and eloquent chronicle does provide a useful, and unusually scrutable, history of the microchip.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1988
ISBN: 0674162978
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press