I helped to build Taiwan’s Silicon Valley

I helped to build Taiwan’s Silicon Valley

In this picture from last December, I am in the showroom of the Macronix factory in Hsinchu Science Park — Taiwan’s version of California’s Silicon Valley. I can’t show you the clean fabrication rooms because semiconductor manufacturing is so delicate that I can’t allow a photographer in there. Contamination on the surface of the wafers — which become part of the microchips that we use in electronic devices — will damage their performance.

Semiconductors will be key to global economic development for the next century, and these screens show three of our main products. Macronix specializes in manufacturing chips that retain data even without power. We produce a range of these tiny electronic devices, which are used in medical equipment, computers, cars, the space industry, games consoles and more.

Here, in this showroom, I talk with visitors about how I helped to build Taiwan’s semiconductor industry. Nearby, I can monitor the fabrication rooms through closed-circuit television cameras and real-time data on the supply of gas and chemicals that we need for the manufacturing process, and on the ultra-pure water that we produce here. We use that to form patterns onto the chip and to clean the wafers between each stage of production. Even the tiniest speck of impurity can cause crucial errors.

We built our factory on shock absorbers to prevent any vibrations. It is a nightmare to keep an eye on all of this.

I was born on the Chinese mainland and moved to Taiwan in the 1940s, earned a master’s degree at Stanford University in California and worked in Silicon Valley at various semiconductor companies.

In 1989, I returned to Taiwan with about 40 Taiwanese engineers and founded Macronix.

My most important innovation was the use of statistics in semiconductor design and manufacturing. My competitors learnt from me, and this innovation is a big reason that Taiwan has become advanced in semiconductors.

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