Clarification Required

War can result in a clarification of thought. After World War II, Vannevar Bush, an aide to US President Harry Truman, wrote that “the flow of new scientific knowledge must be both continuous and substantial.”

The population at large had seen the most incredible advances in technology brought about during the war – the most spectacular of which was the atom bomb.

Between 1945 and 1960, R&D spending in the semiconductor industry increased by about 7% CAGR but US government spending in that time increased 9x.

At that time, advances were adopted quickly and widely – Jean Hoerni’s planar process revolutionised the IC industry. By 1964, 75% of the semiconductor industry were using the planar process, but fewer than ten companies had actually licensed it, despite Fairchild’s 1959 patent on the process.

Nowadays, fundamental research is sparse, litigation on patents is ferocious and there have not been any breakthrough products in the chip industry in a couple of decades.



  1. Well george if you look at the tsunami of microelectronics patents being filed today, and contrast it with the paucity of innovation within the modern semiconductor industry, I suppose the answer’s No. And if you look at the IC industry’s most innovative period from say 1959 to 1984, I would expect, though I don’t know, that there were vastly less patents filed in those 25 years than in the 1984 – 2009 period when innovation has faltered. If it were possible to devise appropriate measurements of innovation, then plotting one against t’other would be interesting.

  2. Patents stimulate innovation, eh?

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