Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.

The Importance Of Government

In the 1980s the US government came up with a series of initiatives which allowed the US semiconductor industry to avoid annihilation at the hands of the Japanese.

The R&D Tax Credit on 1981 – extended 14 times since and still in force today – allowed US companies to set off a proportion of their R&D expenses against tax.

In 1984, IP protection was given to chip designs. Before 1984 it wasn’t illegal to copy a chip – the  layout on an IC could be copied and etched on a mask and made into a chip without any legal redress.

The US Congress saved the situation by passing the Chip Protection Act 1984

In 1985 Micron filed the first anti-dumping case for selling EPROM and DRAM below cost, which was backed up by the 1986 filing by the SIA of anti-dumping charges against the Japanese.

In 1987, the US Imposed $300 million in anti-dumping duties on the Japanese chip manufacturers.

In 1987, Sematech was founded by Charlie Sporck and Bob Noyce backed by $100 million a year from the US government to fund chip R&D.

In 1993, the US was No.1 in semis again and, by 1998, it had over half the world market.

It was a close-run thing, Japan had taken 51% of the world semiconductor market in 1988.

If the US government hadn’t acted throughout the 1980s, there would be little semiconductor industry left in America by mow.

Tags: chip protection, eprom, ip protection, micron, sematech

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  1. George
    December 03, 2013 16:06

    Keith, I would be more inclined to say, “Quelle dommage!” The world might be a very different place had Britain and Europe put similar measures in place.

  2. david manners
    December 03, 2013 22:01

    Yes, George, IMHO Europe seems to go in for fixes, while America changes the underlying politico/economic structure to achieve what’s needed and the latter approach has a more lasting effect.

  3. zeitghost
    December 02, 2013 11:27

    Did nothing?

    That’s a bit unfair.

    In 1984 Maggie sold Inmos to Thorn EMI. ROTFLMFAO.

    And it eventually ended up as part of ST. ROTFLMFAO ^ 2.

  4. david manners
    December 02, 2013 11:41

    And that’s a lot of ROTFLMAO-ing, zeitghost, though I must agree – the Yanks did seem to understand what needed to be done a lot better than us.

  5. Keith
    November 29, 2013 16:18

    Meanwhile, in Europe and particularly the UK, nothing was done, Quelle surpise.