As most of you know SemiWiki published a book which is a really nice history of the fabless semiconductor ecosystem. Thousands of people have copies, we have received many compliments on it, and we are very proud. As a thank you to all SemiWiki members I would like to offer a free electronic version of the book (PDF). You can access it via the attachment at the bottom of this wiki:
Fabless: The Transformation of the Semiconductor Industry
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For those of you who are “seasoned” semiconductor professionals this book will be a nice walk down memory lane. If you are less seasoned it will be a great read to get you up to speed on how we got to where we are today and where we are going tomorrow, absolutely.
The purpose of this book is to illustrate the magnificence of the fabless semiconductor ecosystem, and to give credit where credit is due. We trace the history of the semiconductor industry from both a technical and business perspective. We argue that the development of the fabless business model was a key enabler of the growth in semiconductors since the mid-1980s. Because business models, as much as the technology, are what keep us thrilled with new gadgets year after year, we focus on the evolution of the electronics business. We also invited key players in the industry to contribute chapters. These “In Their Own Words” chapters allow the heavyweights of the industry to tell their corporate history for themselves, focusing on the industry developments (both in technology and business models) that made them successful, and how they in turn drive the further evolution of the semiconductor industry.
The economics of designing a chip and getting it manufactured is similar to how the pharmaceutical industry gets a new drug to market. Getting to the stage that a drug can be shipped to your local pharmacy is enormously expensive. But once it’s done, you have something that can be manufactured for a few cents and sold for, perhaps, ten dollars. ICs are like that, although for different reasons. Getting an IC designed and manufactured is incredibly expensive, but then you have something that can be manufactured for a few dollars, and put into products that can be sold for hundreds of dollars. One way to look at it is that the first IC costs many millions of dollars—you only make a lot of money
if you sell a lot of them.
What we hope you learn from this book is that even though IC-based electronics are cheap and ubiquitous, they are not cheap or easy to make. It takes teams of hundreds of design engineers to design an IC, and a complex ecosystem of software, components, and services to make it happen. The fabs that physically manufacture the ICs cost more to build than a nuclear power plant. Yet year after year, for 40 years, the cost per transistor has decreased in a steady and predictable curve. There are many reasons for this cost reduction, and we argue that the fabless semiconductor business model is among the most important of those reasons over the past three decades. The next chapter is an introduction to the history of the semiconductor industry, including the invention of the basic building block of all modern digital devices, the transistor, the invention of the integrated circuit, and the businesses that developed around them.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Semiconductor Century
Chapter 2: The ASIC Business
In Their Own Words: VLSI Technology
In Their Own Words: eSilicon Corporation
Chapter 3: The FPGA
In Their Own Words: Xilinx
Chapter 4: Moving To The Fabless Model
In Their Own Words: Chips And Technologies
Chapter 5: The Rise Of The Foundry
In Their Own Words: TSMC And Open Innovation Platform
In Their Own Words: GLOBALFOUNDRIES
Chapter 6: Electronic Design Automation
In Their Own Words: Mentor Graphics
In Their Own Words: Cadence Design Systems
In Their Own Words: Synopsys
Chapter 7: Intellectual Property
In Their Own Words: ARM
In Their Own Words: Imagination
Chapter 8: What’s Next For The Semiconductor Industry