With the Notebook to the Moon - 50th anniversary of the semiconductor industry in Germany

Apr 9, 2002 | Market News

Munich, 9 April 2002 – In just a few lines, Ernst von Siemens announced in early April 1952 the intention to build a separate plant for the production of semiconductors. At that time it was unforeseeable what developments he would trigger off. It was the start of the semiconductor industry in Germany. Today – half a century later – this sector can look back on incomparable developments in both economic and technical terms. And the plant constructed 50 years ago continues to play a part in this development process as one of its pioneers. But today, it is called Infineon. And the original total of 30 employees has become 30,000, one in six of whom, at 29 locations worldwide, is involved in the areas of research and development.

In the relational triangle of miniaturization, increasing productivity and reducing prices

Between 1954 and 2000, worldwide sales of the entire industry increased 40,000 times over from five million US Dollars to 200 billion US Dollars. In the meantime, an average of 60 million transistors is produced per capita and year. In achieving this growth, right from start the semiconductor industry has functioned according to its own rules. Its best-known and, simultaneously, most far-reaching was already formulated by Gordon Moore in 1965. He observed that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit, doubled about every 18 months. In other words, that means nothing else than that the performance of quite normal PCs also doubles in the same period. In line with this trend, the entire computing volume for the first moon landing in 1969 could now be handled by a conventional laptop. That also involves the continuous miniaturization of the components. 1 GByte of memory, today occupies a module the size of two credit cards, 30 years ago it would have required space of 700 m2 and the electricity supply of an entire village.

Whether for traffic control, telecommunications, information processing or in the programmable coffee machine, the ever smaller and faster components have now become an indispensable part of our everyday life. But that is only possible because prices have not increased analogously to performance – on the contrary. No other sector is characterized by a price erosion comparable to that which the semi-conductor industry has experienced since its start. Whereas in 1972, for the equivalent of around 80,000 Euro, you had the choice between a detached house or 1Mbit of memory, the equivalent value of this memory volume today of just a few cents corresponds to a single piece of chewing gum.

Future factor – research and development

According to Ulrich Schumacher, Chief Executive Officer of Infineon Technologies, companies involved in the market can only absorb a continuous decline in prices on this scale through continuous increases in productivity. “The only way to achieve this is through scientific-technological progress”, said Schumacher. “In 2001 alone, therefore, we spent 1.2 billion Euro on research and development. That corresponds roughly to the budgets of two large German universities. That clearly shows how seriously we approach the securing of our company’s future. And I believe that our average of 12 patent applications per day is impressive proof of success.”

For the future too, semiconductor research is preparing revolutionary developments for practically all areas of life. Whether it be medicine, where appropriately programmed microchips, for example, contribute to the early detection of cancer, or in the area of security solutions, where microprocessors offer it possible to produce secure identification documents – the diversity and chances of the practical applications are just as unforeseeable today as they were 50 years ago.

About Infineon

Infineon Technologies AG, Munich, Germany, offers semiconductor and system solutions for applications in the wired and wireless communications markets, for security systems and smartcards, for the automotive and industrial sectors, as well as memory products. With a global presence, Infineon operates in the US from San Jose, CA, in the Asia-Pacific region from Singapore and in Japan from Tokyo. In the fiscal year 2001 (ending September), the company achieved sales of Euro 5.67 billion with about 33,800 employees worldwide. Infineon is listed on the DAX index of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: IFX). Further information is available at www.infineon.com.

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