Cheap as Chips
Tiny silicon chips control a vast range of electronic gadgets – from toys and games to personal computers, tablets, phones, household appliances and a range of industrial equipment. Vast arrays of silicon can also be seen on rooftops and in the countryside, converting energy from the sun into electrical energy. New applications such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robotics will be based on silicon chips. We live in the Age of Silicon!
Cheap as Chips is a trilogy, describing in simple terms what silicon is, how it became so important, yet cheap enough for billions of people to own at least one piece of this remarkably ubiquitous material. The three books are not scientific textbooks; there are no scientific symbols, no chemical formulae, no mathematical equations or complex diagrams: they are written in plain English, with an extensive glossary and footnotes providing additional information, especially for the layperson. Book One, ‘Made in Silicon’ shows how, within seventy years, a vast silicon industry was created, first in the USA, then in Japan and Far Eastern countries such as South Korea and Taiwan. The key role of Moore’s Law as a driver of the silicon chip industry is explained. Book Two, ‘Designed in Britain’, shows how Britain struggled to manufacture the low cost chips needed for competitive mass markets, yet developed a strong capability in their design and application. Book Three, ‘Memories of an Invention’, describes the fortunes of an invention in silicon materials, ‘MALMAG’, which was created in a government defence laboratory, patented in a government-owned defence research agency and exploited for mass consumer applications by a privatized defence company, QinetiQ plc.
Keith G. Barraclough pursued a fifty-year career in electronic materials, including forty years in silicon technology. After graduating from the University of Birmingham he carried out research at Siemens Central Research laboratories in Munich, Germany and at the Clarendon Laboratory, University of Oxford, before taking up an appointment at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, RSRE, in Malvern, UK. Keith led a team on silicon crystal growth research and was a co-inventor of MALMAG before becoming engaged in the management of change as part of RSRE was gradually transformed into a public company, QinetiQ plc. On retirement, Keith formed KGB Consulting Ltd. which undertook a range of projects, including the exploitation of MALMAG.