Old Technology Driving Semiconductor Market?

The five words that lead off the next sentence are going to make me sound like the oldest old fart that ever old farted, but here goes. In today’s high tech world, we’re used to seeing technology evolve so quickly that we don’t have time to adapt to the newest tech before even newer newest stuff emerges. We’re used to seeing perfectly good and highly effective technology swept aside for new iterations, even if the new version isn’t actually any better than what came before. In short, we’re used to advancements made solely for the sake of advancement.

So it’s something of a surprise that the semiconductor industry—the super high tech folks that build the chips that are the “brains” of just about every modern digital device—is currently being propped up by older, outdated technology. Now, don’t get me wrong, the semiconductor market is plenty strong any way you look at it; even without the boost from this old tech, they’d be doing just fine. But this writer finds it interesting that an undeniable step backward in perhaps the highest of high tech markets can spur the industry’s largest growth since 2010 and add another few billion dollars to worldwide coffers.

Oooh, shiny!

Oooh, shiny!

China’s At It Again!

So, what gives? According to a recent Bloomberg article, a number of Chinese semiconductor manufacturers are “aggressively” “chasing” eight inch silicon wafers (the building blocks of semiconductor chips) in favor of the more modern 12-inch wafers. I’m not technologically astute enough to know what the difference is betwixt the two, but I do know that it’s weird for anyone in this industry to favor old tech over the latest and greatest, so surely there are some benefits to be reaped. Perhaps “advancement for the sake of advancement” has finally overplayed its hand.

At any rate, increased sales of silicon wafers, no matter what size and/or shape they may be (does shape matter? I haven’t the foggiest idea), are driving all other aspects of the semiconductor market, from wafer backgrinding to potting and encapsulation. Heck, even the shipping companies that handle these tiny gizmos are probably cleaning up. (I’m sure there’s some specialization involved in shipping/handling semiconductors. You don’t want any Joe Schmoe FedEx driver lugging those things around—they’re quite fragile and expensive.)

It’s nice to see technology move backward for once, if only incrementally. Personally, I’m hoping for the kind of outdated technology renaissance that’ll allow me unload all my damn 8-tracks at a profit, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Photo credit: jurvetson via Foter.com / CC BY

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