– Intel is the microprocessor leader in the
worked for them twice, once as a co-op engineer my Jr. year in college,
and again after they bought out the company I was working for. I have
a lot of respect for them as a company. They do a lot of things right,
a good reason why they’re such a big company.
I worked for them
in 1993, and again in 1998 upon which I took an early retirement/severance
Digital Equipment - No longer exists
I moved out to Hudson Massachusetts in the summer
of 1996, to work for Digital Equipment Corp, when I had graduated from
the time Digital Equipment was the leader in microprocessor design
1996 when most Pentiums were operating at 200 mhz, their 21264 Alpha
true 64 bit RISC processor was running at 600+ mhz. They were
leading the technology in both design, and process.
- In an ironic
twist, Digital equipment sued Intel for patent infringement, for utilizing
of the Alpha Microprocessor architecture in their Pentium processor,
which is attributed to be a major contributor to the performance improvements
from the 486 processor. The final result of Digital’s successful
legal challenge was an undisclosed discount on Intel microprocessors,
to aid the computer portion of Digital’s PC division
semiconductor division of Digital Equipment was sold to Intel. The
final result of all this action was that Digital Equipment was acquired
Computer. As it happens, the semiconductor division which I was working
for eventually became an Intel fab.
The groundbreaking Alpha chip, was continued for
a little bit and then the rights were sold to Compaq, it was rumored
that it was licensed to Samsung, who even tried to manufacture it for
a while. In the end the chip never gained a critical foothold in the
PRI Automation - No longer exists
– At the 200mm (8 inch) process fab node
they were the leading supplier of Automated Material Handling systems. As
a co-worker from Digital Equipment put it. “The Stockers
and Overhead track kept all the operators from running into each other
over the Fab.” PRI Automation had systems worldwide, in
Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, the United States and Europe. (but alas,
limited business in Japan) As a result their competitors Daifuku and
Murata, now seem to
be dominating the 300mm (12 inch) process node. PRI Automation
possessed a broad offering of factory automation tools, from precision
robots (Equipe Robots), to Automated Material Handling and Overhead
Track Factory systems(at the time it was known as the Factory Systems
Division, and the product was AeroTrack, and TransNet), factory host
control software systems (MES, MCS, ERP - They had purchased Promis,
was uniquely positioned to be the leader in Factory Automation solutions.
Rumor has it that they got into competition with
Brooks Automation. PRI made robots, Brooks made robots. Although their
businesses were different initially, as the wave of mergers and
aquisitions as they started to buy out other companies, they
started to overlap on each others markets. Conflct was inevitable.
As the industry shifted away from their highly profitable
200mm products to more standarized 300mm products. It has been said that
PRI had an extremely large customer base with Intel. But their new
products didn't catch on for the next generation of orders. Thus they
fell with the rest of the industry as the economy faced the downturn
As it happens, late in 2002, PRI was purchased by
Brooks Automation. The competition was over.
Adept Inc - No longer exists
– Adept Inc was a technical staffing
company, broadening it’s offerings to full project solutions. As
a leader in filling positions for web services and e-commerce applications
it seemed like a natural progression (in 1999 at least) to enter a
Consulting division. After fits and starts, a solid business was
established. The final result was the technical staffing company
was sold to TMP worldwide – owner of Monster.com, the largest
technical staffing, and executive recruitment firm in the world. The
solutions division was spun off as it’s own entity, Coriva Inc.
- Ironically there is another company called Adept
Technology, which makes factory automation equipment. They make robots,
end modules and other hardware necessary for automating processes.
They have a presence in the semiconductor automation industry, and
may be considered a competitor to the major robot manufacturers as
well as the automation equipment suppliers (such as Asyst, or Brooks
New Vision Systems (NVS) - No longer exists
Towards the end of the Internet Era in 2001, I quit
Adept and decided to go back into the semiconductor industry.
this job as an applications engineer for NVS. I thought it was great,
they had offices on Massachusetts Avenue, right next to my house, I
office. The culture was a startup, casual yet dilligent. There were
video games in the back room. The fridge and kitchen had free sodas, and snacks. More often than not, the company would
buy us lunch or dinner.
NVS had exciting technology, they had a process
control tool, which would feedback information from a offset metrology
tool to a lithography stepper, in real time. I would
be using both the materials science background, as well as the chemical
engineering training I had been taught. Plus it was in an industry
I was very familiar with. I would be able to travel, see the world,
and see technology in action. I think the best thing I took from that
job was one of my co-workers who I
how the semiconductor industry worked, she would later introduce me
to her friends in Taipei.
Unfortunatley, I only worked
for them for a short period of time. Although I really didn't do
anything wrong, there was a snowstorm, I went in anyways, ice got stuck
in the air conditioning unit on roof. The server room got really hot.
A couple of hard drives stopped working. I really didn't quite know
what to do. I went skiing. The next day I was terminated. They claim it had nothing
to do with the meltdown.
NVS was bought by Inficom in 2002.
ADE – Advanced Dimensional Equipment. - My current employer
- ADE has carved
out it’s own niche in the wafer metrology node. They supply
wafer flatness, Nanotopography, and Wafer inspection tools to the semiconductor
wafer makers. They
set the standard for bare wafer metrology.
Micron Technology - They still Exist
Micron is a chip company in the middle of Idaho,
land of potatoes.
Consequently at one time Micron is largely owned
by a man named J.R. Simplot. Roughly speaking he's a potato king.
JR Simplot founded a company, that still bears his name, which made
it's mark selling dehydrated potatoes to the Army during World War
a way to
deep fat fry friench fries, and then freeze them (allowing the houswife
to finish them off in the oven) the company developed a cozy relationship with
an end user named Ray Kroc.
JR Simplot retired from Micron's Board
of Directors in 1998.
I worked for Micron Technology in the Summer of 1995.
I was a TEM technician. The previous year I had worked for Intel, although
I was an intern engineer, I spent a lot of my time running a SEM. As
a result I got to know the service people for the microscope quite
well. As a result through my contacts through Philips I had heard that
they had installed a new microscope at Micron, in Boise. Not knowing
exactly where that was I decided to go anyways.
SEM is a scanning electron microscope. it illuminates a surface with
a beam of electrons, and then displays an image. The sample needs
to be small enough to fit under the microscope, and durable enough
to be able to withstand a vaccuum. Preparing a cross section can be an art form. It will resolve features about 50
Angstroms in size. I spent a lot of time at Intel pumping down the SEM chamber.
A TEM is a Transmission
Electron Microscope, in addition to using electrons as the illumination
source, it transmitts them through the substrate. Thus the sample
must be very thin. Although quite impressive images can be generated,
sample preperation can be excrutating difficult. This will resolve features
less than 10 Angstroms in size. Be aware that the bond distance between
two silicon atoms is only 2.5 Angstroms, thus it is possible to see
the detailed crystaline structure, atom by atom, if the sample is prepared
I graduated from college in 1996, I had a choice of staying around
Berkeley in California, or moving to Boise ID, Albequeque NM (Intel), or Hudson MA
(a suburb of Boston). Somehow I chose to go to Digital Equipment in Massachusetts.