Episodes of Dynamic Semiconductor Evolution


The history of semiconductor industry has been very dynamic in the past several decades due to drastic changes in the technology and market. Most notable are the rise and fall of nations, companies, and individuals in this field. There are many things, indeed, to learn in the past history.
An ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius expressed the importance of learning from the past by a simple word of “Onko-Chishin” which means “you should consult the past if you want to learn about the future”.
The motivation of writing the series of Episodes has been to describe the dynamism of the industry through my own eyes and experiences.

Following subjects will be covered to explain the dynamism of the semiconductor evolution.

  1. Synergistic growth of consumer electronics and the semiconductor industry in Japan How was the vertical integration model started?
  2. Technology transfer from the US to Japan Roles of technology agreement, technical conferences, and universities
  3. “Tyranny of Numbers” and the invention of IC Who owns the patent right of IC, Kilby or Noyce?
  4. Impacts of calculators on the rise of LSI industry
  5. Development of MPU derived from the joint project of calculator LSI
  6. Reengineering of CMOS to outperform NMOS devices How did CMOS become the mainstream of the semiconductor technology?
  7. Cyclical phenomenon of semiconductor industry between standardization and customization so-called Makimoto’s Wave
  8. Japan’s domination of DRAM and its consequences How did Japan become the No.1 country in this industry in 1980’s?
  9. US-Japan Semiconductor Agreement and its impacts
  10. Rise and fall of Japanese semiconductor industry Causes of victory in 1980’s, and those of defeat in 1990’s and beyond
  11. What are the possible measures for Japanese semiconductors to revive?

The original version of this series was published on the Semiconductor Industry News (Sangyo Times Co., Ltd.) from July 12, 2006 to January 9, 2008.Noted by the author (January, 2018)


Encounter with Semiconductors

It was in 1955 when I decided to choose semiconductor as my lifetime job. It was more than half a century ago, but since then until today, my life has literally been "semiconductor life".

Leap Forward by Germanium Transistor

The first semiconductor product I worked on was germanium transistor. Because it is not made anywhere now, it is something that you can only see in museums.

Learning from the US

I joined Hitachi and started working on semiconductors in 1959. Technical gaps between Japan and the United States in these times were so big, as can be compared to the difference of sumo wrestlers...

Invention of Integrated Circuits

The time machine takes us to the latter half of the 1950’s, and I now describe the societal background when the IC was invented and its dramatic development story.

Opening of the LSI Era

Since IC was invented by Jack Kilby in 1958 and commercialized by Fairchild in 1961, the tempo of that innovation had been truly remarkable and the integration density continued to increase year by year to finally reach the level of “Large Scale Integrated Circuits”.

Semiconductor Golden Age Brought by Calculators

In the evolution of the semiconductor industry, electronic calculators played extremely important roles in some immeasurable ways.

Impact of Oil Shock

Many of the readers may still have the memory of the oil shock in some way that occurred as a result of the outbreak of the war in the Middle East in the autumn of 1973.

New Age of Memories and Microprocessors

In the early 1970’s, the era of calculators which drove the LSI business was gone along with the oil shock, and after that the era of the memories and microprocessors was newly opened.

Challenge to Intel with High Speed CMOS

There may not be any other industrial fields that are shaken more drastically than semiconductors. In addition to the cycles of booms and bottoms that are in a relatively short period of time, large structural transformations occur at longer periods, which can lead to a major depression.

World Top Position in DRAM

In the field of DRAM, fierce competition was repeated along with generation changes every three years, since 1K bit product (1103) was developed by Intel in 1970.

Great Leap Forward in Memory Business

The first half of the 1980’s became a new golden age for Hitachi semiconductor group, after the first golden age in the first half of the 1970’s of calculator LSI era.

Outbreak of Japan-US Semiconductor War

In 1984, the global semiconductor market was booming and the annual growth rate reached a fabulous figure of 48%.This year was the year of the Los Angeles Olympic Games, and it came to endorse a popular belief at the time that “the semiconductor market peaks in the year of the Olympics.”

"Makimoto’s Wave": The Cycle of Standardization and Customization

In the semiconductor industry, market situations suddenly and drastically change from time to time,...

Legal Battle over Microprocessor

In 1989, the imperial era in Japan was changed to Heisei from Showa, and the structure of Hitachi's semiconductor business also entered a new turning point. One day, an unexpected change occurred in my semiconductor life as well.

Third Golden Age of Hitachi Semiconductor

In Hitachi’s business management, particularly striking points compared to other companies is the strict “budget system”.

Japan-US Semiconductor Agreement

The year of 1996 became a difficult one for the Japanese semiconductor industry as well as for me. It turned from the boom in the previous year to the year of the great recession.

Two-Stage Demotion

The semiconductor business maintained a healthy condition for a while since I handed my position of GM of Semiconductor Division over to the younger generation in 1995, and it was a smooth and successful launch for the new management.

Proposal: “Revitalization of Japanese Semiconductors”

One indicator of relative competitiveness in the semiconductor field is the share in the global market. Although it is not the only indicator, it is the most important indicator in capturing competitiveness as a long-term trend.

From Hitachi to Sony

June 22nd, 2000. It was the day when a big turning point in my semiconductor life arrived. In the evening of this day, when I was having dinner at home, Sony’s Nobuyuki Idei (then president) gave me a direct phone call.

Rise and Fall of Japanese Semiconductors

We do not see other industries in which technology innovation is so intense, and market fluctuation is so drastic like semiconductors, do we? Caused by its violent nature, a winner yesterday becomes a loser today, and it reminds us of the first phrase of the “The Tale of the Heike”:

Cheer Up! Nippon Semiconductors!

This series of “Episodes of Dynamic Semiconductor Evolution” is now complete with this No. 21, the final Episode. I would like to conclude the final chapter as a song to cheer up Japanese semiconductors.

END of ExhibitⅠ