Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Fab Walk

Maybe not the fab you would imagine at the start, but rather a fab in this sense.
With many colleagues, I had the great privilege during my time in Dresden to be treated to a tour of the AMD Fab site in Dresden.
Seeing something like this for a technologist, in a somewhat less advanced area, is humbling. The work requires staggering precision over an amazing scale. Analysis must be done at the atomic level to improve processes and understand what is going wrong when it does. At the level of the whole site, the challenges of serving the cleanroom processes with exact temperatures, ultra-pure water, a blinding variety of gasses and chemicals (and never having any of this service interrupted), are extremely daunting. The whole site has basic services that would make most cities jealous (independent electricity production, water cleaning, assuring relatively fail-safe delivery). The site tour gave me an amazing sense of how high the barriers of entry are into this industry.
But the Dresden fab site plays yet another role. Everyone who presented to us was projecting great delight at being part of this. Part of it is surely the history before 'the Change' (a phrase used during the tour), and the relief at coming out of it so much better than much of the former East Germany. There were lovely stories of the development of local attitudes, starting with fear, and growing to pride in what has been achieved, and a focus on making sure the new generation gets itself educated into playing a role in AMD or similar companies.
My time here has been an utter delight so far, but much of it has been spent on a University campus, where one gets to feel the hopes for tomorrow. AMD has helped create some of those (you will see more of how in a later post).
Which is why an article like this, while speculative, makes me worry for some of the people I have spent the week with.


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