By Arnold Kling
Designers led by Mr. Bohr in Hillsboro, Ore., chose hafnium to replace silicon oxide, the venerable insulator in chips and a material used in making glass. Mr. Bohr also helped to identify new materials, whose identity Intel is keeping secret, for the crucial transistor “gates” that sit atop a chip’s insulators.
On Nov. 12, Intel will begin shipping its first chips using the new processes. Gordon E. Moore, Intel’s co-founder, recently declared that the hafnium-and-gate process innovations should allow his so-called Moore’s Law, whereby chips grow ever faster and less expensive, to hold true for some time.
Despite the enormity of the achievement, Mr. Bohr is relatively anonymous, even within Intel. “The work of process development comes second to creating new designs for chips,” he says. Not surprisingly, when Intel starts shipping the new chips, neither the hafnium nor the gates innovations will be trumpeted as selling points. Rather, Intel will emphasize how customers can benefit from using the chips.
The point of the article is that the processes–what I like to call the recipes–that enable new products and services are often hidden from the public view. In general, as the information content of goods and services rises–and Ray Kurzweil has long argued that the information content will asymptotically reach 100 percent–the sources of economic success become less visible and less tangible.
Thanks to Nick Schulz for the pointer.