Audiobook Review: Chip War: The Fight For The World's Most Critical Technology


Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology by Chris Miller, narrated by Stephen Graybill

Chip War is a fascinating look at the history of the computer chip, from the initial creation of the transistor up to today’s semiconductors with billions (with a “b”)  of transistors on a single chip.

Miller starts with a history of Silicon Valley, the growth of early chip makers through the moon mission and military projects in guiding missiles during the Cold War, to the growing commercial market for chips in the seventies and the rise of the PC in the eighties.

The story continues with the growth of DRAM and multipurpose chips, and on into the rise of outsourcing and the separation of chip design from chip manufacture. 

Most of the book is made up of relatively short chapters highlighting different companies and individuals important in the history of the chip industry. It is not a scholarly tome (even though the author is a History professor), but more of a general history of the industry and how it has grown in importance over time.

The heart of the book is really in laying those two things out - first in telling the stories of the people who drove the industry forward, and second in relaying the story of the geopolitical importance of computer chips, and how they have driven the economic success of countries like the United States, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. 

Today, China is trying hard to position itself as a leader in the design and manufacture of chips, with some success, but with notable challenges coming from the United States, specifically against Chinese firms ZTE and  Huawei.

The semiconductor industry was the leader in globalization, and is  the poster child for a globalized supply chain. Today however, the US and other countries are pulling back from globalization and focusing on strategic interests in supply chains. This is partly as a result of COVID and partly as a result of belligerent actions by authoritarian regimes, most notably the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

In this new world Taiwan is a particular flashpoint as it is not only the location of the single most advanced and most important chip manufacturer but of course is also considered by China to be part of its territory, and is a repeated subject of China’s belligerence. This book really drives home why the US has a strategic interest in Taiwan, and should be concerned about the recent Chinese war games in the Taiwan Strait.

Narrator Stephen Graybill did an excellent job.

Rating: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Title: Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology

Author: Chris Miller

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Publish Date: October 4, 2022

ISBN-13: 9781797147192

Publisher’s List Price: $24.99 Audio Download (as of 12/2022)