Notes on semiconductor technology by D.Messerschmitt

(based in part on the lecture by Chenming Hu)

The basic message of this talk is that standard CMOS technology has been following an exponential curve by any cost/performance measure. This advance can be expected to continue for at least one or two more decades. There are several factors that could ultimately limit the technology:

For the time being, there does not seem to be any obstacle to further advance in semiconductors on the horizon. This has significant implications applications dependent on this technology, like computing, networking, etc.

Another interesting issue is whether new technologies that compete with CMOS might be able to gain a foothold. Even if a new technology is inherently superior, it may not be able to gain a foothold against CMOS unless:

The bottom line is that a new semiconductor technology has to be a really significant advance to displace the current technology. When technologies are competing that have relatively undifferentiated characteristics, like GaAs and Silicon, then the technology that attracts the greatest investment will be the winner. It will also have a strong tendency to take over 100% market share because of economies of scale, such as the spreading of the cost of development of CMOS-related CAD software and manufacturing equipment across a larger industry base.

Thus, the CMOS technology illustrates at least three economics effects:

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