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Microchip: An Idea, Its Genesis, And The Revolution It Created Hardcover – December 24, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0738205618 ISBN-10: 0738205613

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738205613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738205618
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,412,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For PlayStations and DVD players, computers and cars, we have the microchip to thank. Yet when, asks business journalist Zygmont, do we stop to fully contemplate such microelectronics, which, "like steel," changed life so fundamentally? Zygmont (The VC Way) charts the human story behind the development of the microchip-how the genius of scientists like Bill Shockley, Jack Kilby, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore contributed to discovery after brilliant discovery, from Texas Instruments' first stabs at a portable calculator to today's high-powered laptops. (There was plenty of Melrose Place-type drama along the way, too, as top talent jumped from firm to firm.) Fortunately, Zygmont has a knack for translating complex material into readable narrative. But don't confuse this book with beach reading; it is, after all, about integrated circuits and the various properties of silicon. What's most compelling in this thoroughly modern history is the race to miniaturization, and the competition between minds that created "the biggest change that has occurred in our culture during the past four decades."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Zygmont compares the invention of the integrated circuit to that of steel--something we use constantly in our day-to-day lives yet rarely stop to contemplate. When it was first invented, the microchip, really an extremely dense packet of transistors, had few fans. There was great resistance to its introduction in the early 1960s, as circuit makers were content with wiring their own rather than using the ready-made ICs. It took not only the ability to create a circuit on a fleck of silicon, but also the vision to find applications for it, first in hand-held calculators, then microwave oven controllers, then cell phones and automobiles, and finally in computers. This is the story of the visionaries who brought us this incredibly complex technology that we take for granted today, such as Jack Kirby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce and Ted Hoff of Intel, as well as some of the unsung heroes of the field. Zygmont succeeds in demystifying the strange processes involved in creating these microscopic circuits and connects us back to what will soon be considered another era. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I cannot believe that this book got published. Within the first chapters, it claims that William Shockley attended Stanford University for his undergraduate degree and gives a fictional account of Shockley packing up to head east to MIT from Palo Alto.
But Shockley attended Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California) for his undergraduate degree. You can find this information anywhere on the Web. What kind of revisionist history is this? The author claims in the preface to have had a lot of help from the staff of the Stanford Silicon Valley Archives, and even has a Hoover fellow writing praise for him on the book jacket. Is this the kind of "help" they give? Hopefully Stanford is not altering the other documents in their collection to give Stanford a good spin, such as the entire Apple documents archive (Apple was founded by UC Berkeley alum Steve Wozniak and Reed College drop-out Steve Jobs).
And that's the stuff that I know. What other inaccuracies abound in this book? A sad waste of trees, this rubbish.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jim Francis on June 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Interesting attempt but way too slow and repetitive. Mostly assumes the reader is a moron who needs things explained 3 different ways. Too much verbage; too much "fat".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rodney J. Szasz on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It always seems to be a shame to see such a great story, the development of the microchip, turned into a sort of turgid exposition of bad writing overlayed with the veneer of a strained plot.

The essential problem with this book if twofold in my estimation:

1) it lacks any central defining thesis or reocurring thematic elements in which to group the story of semiconductor design and development.

2) There is a strained attempt to overlay the background of the "exciting individuals" and entrepeneurial hype associated with these people as a central element of the book. Although I am sure that there are some interesting anecdotes here about some rather idiosyncratic personalities, authoritarian personalities and science/tech nerds, the stories aren't told too tolerably well.

Also annoying is the lack of any diagrams to describe any of the features and fundemental designs for the semiconductors. I am not talking about circuit designs, I am talking about schematic diagrams common in any well written pop-science book. If the writing was clearer the prose could stand alone even without such diagrams, but as it was I had to give up on the text after about half way through.

In sum, the author is trying to tell a narrative history of the semiconductor. But the story just does not come off and I am left sort of shaking my head not exaclty knowing what it is I am getting from the investment of time in this book. For better reads on technology I would recommend "ENIAC" and "Silicon Valley Snake Oil" for those who love exciting reads and clear descriptions of technology for the layperson.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Chrzanowski on February 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This appears to be a book by a journalist who lacks a basic understanding of how semiconductor devices work. Although the author uses the usual journalistic devices (for example, providing a brief biography as each new character is introduced), it's not enough to carry the book's story.

For example, the author uses phrases like "metal-oxide semiconductor," which set the knowledgable reader's teeth on edge: as near as I can tell, the author truly believes that MOS semiconductor devices are actually made from ... metal oxides (example: "RCA made plans to introduce a line of ready-to-use metal oxides" [pg. 99] ).

Another annoyance is the author's cutesy tone. Thus, bipolar junction transistors are repeatedly referred to as "oreos." Is there an English teacher alive who wound not flunk you for writing, "Field-effect transistors didn't fire as fast as bipolars, and therefore some critics complained that they were poorly suited for such products as computers, which could keep you waiting too long for an answer if their transistors didn't blink like rapid bug eyes ..." (pg. 98)?

In short, I found this book so astonishingly bad that I was surprised it found a commercial publisher.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By a customer on November 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a scientist or a professional reviewer. I like to read about a wide variety of topics. While I hope for accuracy, I don't "fact check" and I am not outraged that Cal Tech might have been slighted in this account. I liked the Microchip. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I thought I might. It was easy to follow and I enjoyed the human drama - rather than diagrams that one reviewer claimed were necessary for the book to be any good. I thought the chapter titles were clever - it's the kind of thing I notice - it's what a "casual" reader might appreciate and for whom I imagine the book was written. I was reminded just how much the microchip has permeated out lives. Just what I was looking for!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to understand how a book bulging with so many factual errors could have slipped through even a cursory editorial review. Zygmont exhibits a jaw-dropping ignorance of his subject at the technical level, and a remarkably poor grasp of the history of semiconductor devices and integrated circuits. One is bound to wonder about the author's objectives, in view of the numerous excellent texts that have already been publised on this topic, for both the casual reader and the serious researcher. His obsessive use of fancifully florid language would be inappropriate even in pulp fiction: here it only makes an already poor piece of journalism ludicrously unreadable. I offer as my credentials a lifetime of contributions to this field, with an international reputation, and Life Fellow of IEEE.
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More About the Author

I write for free people who possess rebellious impulses. My stories tell about independent characters in conflict with collected groups and their constraining beliefs. Since we all belong to groups, I expose the unspoken rules we embrace unconsciously in any organization, whether it's a faith or zealous movement, political party (either), business corporation, labor union or professional association, social club, charitable organization, television audience ... the list is very long.

That theme underlies three novels: I Am Bill Gates' Dog, Ad Man in the Games of 2046 and The Dropout. The pioneering web publisher Online Originals named The Dropout its "Featured Selection" in July 2002.

I have published short fiction in the anthology The Literature of Work, and in periodicals ranging from New Hampshire Journal to the magazine Twin Cities Business Monthly (of all places!). My poetry has appeared in the journal Not Just Air. Two of my poems received nominations for the annual Pushcart Prize, a respected literary award. They are Wife Poem XXVII, nominated in 2008, and Menopause, nominated in 2009.

As a journalist, I have published articles in many magazines and newspapers, including Boston Magazine, Boston Woman, Business Week, CFO Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Cigar Aficionado, Gannett Newspapers, Inc Magazine, The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, and Robb Report. I was the automobile columnist for Omni Magazine, a technology columnist for PC Computing Magazine, and an editor and staff writer for High Technology Magazine.

My non-fiction books are Microchip; An Idea, Its Genesis and the Revolution It Created, and The VC Way; Investment Secrets from the Wizards of Venture Capital, which was translated into Chinese for sale in the Orient. Microchip was a 10-best recommendation by Booklist in the science and technology category in 2002.

My early career in journalism and non-fiction writing gave me knowledge and insight into so many of our muzzling institutions. Today I convert that education into literature that exposes the built-in biases we embrace in our allegiances to groups, while it also celebrates our independent spirits that are capable of elevating us above those biases. Oh, and my books strive to entertain and engage you, too.