Chip shortage: what’s behind the global crisis

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In April, Apple celebrated its custom-made M1 chip with great fanfare. In the accompanying TV commercial, a young man runs on a “Mission Implausible” over the roofs of Apple’s “spaceship” campus, breaks into the facility, “steals” the groundbreaking microprocessor from a MacBook and plugs it into an iPad Pro.

This chip specially developed by Apple is the latest triumph of Moore’s Law – originally just an observation that became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It says chip makers can double the number of transistors on a chip every few years. The M1 packs 16 billion transistors into a microprocessor the size of a postage stamp. It is considered a marvel of today’s semiconductor manufacturing.

Nevertheless, the promise of ever increasing computing power is crumbling. However, not because the chip manufacturers would have reached the physical limits of miniaturization. Rising costs for the ever greater compression of computing power have led to a consolidation among chip manufacturers – and to bottlenecks in the immensely complex business of chip production.

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