Maybe Andy Grove, who said only the paranoid survive, was right.
But it's no fun being a paranoid, and with all the extra stress that state of mind induces, probably not the best route to survival either.
Now that the worst of the horrible 2001-03 downturn is behind us, it's time to get back to more balanced thinking.
Things are not all that bad in the U.S. high-tech sector. The Fabless Semiconductor Association has listed its top 10 fabless companies, and only one-Taiwan's MediaTek- is based outside the U.S. Japan, zero; Europe, zero. China, zero, but-point granted-populated with thousands of Broadcom wannabes.
By that, I don't mean fabless companies are going to drive out the "real men" who own their own fabs. ISuppli has a ranking of the top 20 chip vendors. With the exception of Qualcomm, all of them own their own fabs. And while Japan has taken its lumps for the past dozen years, it is notable that eight of the top 20 chip vendors are based in Japan, including the fastest-growing company, Sharp. Seven of the top 20 are based in the United States.
Is outsourcing worrisome? You bet. But before outsourcing of design jobs gets out of hand in the U.S., perhaps engineers should become quasi-organized, much as doctors are politically active via the American Medical Association, or lawyers through their bar association.
For example, perhaps the design engineers at companies ranging from AMD down to Zilog should get more active in the IEEE, with IEEE regional councils setting up groups within the major companies.
Then, before management decides to move hundreds of design jobs to Outer Slobovia, managers and these company IEEE representatives could sit down for exchanges of opinion.
That would be a start. I remember my early days with this news-paper, when the Semiconductor Industry Association fought with great vigor to open Japan's market to U.S.-made chips. Since the SIA's successful campaign 20 years ago for a 20 percent share in Japan, there hasn't been much political activism in the semiconductor industry.
That SIA effort was organized by the managers, by the Wilf Corrigans and Jerry Sanders of this world. Now's the time for the engineers to stand up for their rights. . . before the next downturn hits.
David Lammers covers SoC process equipment. Contact him at email@example.com.