Sunday, March 30, 2008

My God, it’s full of chips!

Despite the title, this is not a post about Boris Johnson. Can anyone trace this story, one of my favourite tech war stories, to an original source? It's the early days of semiconductor fabbing at Texas Instruments; the process is still a bit of an art, both in the sense of a science with more than seven variables and in the sense of something less certain than science, and for every chip that passes quality control reams are discarded. But there is a shortage of chips; TI can command silly prices for them.

So they adopt a sort of inverted lean production; run the line as fast as possible, ship the good ones, and throw away the rest. The crap, obeying Sturgeon's law, piles up; fortunately the company is growing fast, and needs to create more parking as the workforce expands (and this being Richardson, Texas, so do their cars). The dead chips get mixed into the tarmac and spread on the new car park.

Future archaeologists will dig down, find the car park, write it off as a typical mid-20th century automotive facility...until they look at a sample with a microscope, and FREAK!

Anyway, I'm very certain of the details - car park, waste chips, Texas Instruments - but I can't find any trace of the tale on the Web. And it is the kind of thing that grows in the Internet. Can you help, dear Lazyweb?


Anonymous said...

I can't help with the chips, but remember that 'gold ore' which Frobisher found on Baffin Island, wot I just mentioned on antipope? Well, when expedition #3 returned with 40 tonnes of the stuff, even the one assayer on their side was forced to conclude it was rubble. So they sold it as hardcore, and ISTR that most of it ended up as a wall somewhere in north Kent - there to confuse future archaeologists.

Chris Williams

Anonymous said...

Well, I watched this one: In the bad old 60's when tubes (valves to fellow Yorkshiremen) were top technology and our missiles needed lots of them, me and my fellow tech men had to sort out the best from the worst in large vibrating testers. The 97% nor-so-good one's were either used for the parking lot improvements or were spirited away for the booming home stereo market.
The parking lots eventually became too high to use so they found some other way. This occurred in my sight at DeHavilland Lostock and DeHavilland Hatfield. This all sounds very simelar to your TI story.

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