Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Bit growth": Why Samsung and SK Hynix will invest $42 billion in semiconductors

As reported by The Korea Times, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will invest approximately $42 billion USD to enhance their semiconductor manufacturing facilities, mostly in Korea.  Semiconductors are perhaps THE core technology of the digital network era, and were targeted in the 1981 Long Term Plan to Foster the Electronics Sector in the form of the 4MB DRAM project.  Once Korea competitively entered the global semiconductor market, it never looked back.  Today, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are dominant players in the global market for both DRAM and NAND memory chips, as shown in this 2016 report by McKinsey.  As noted in that report, "Memory bit capacity is determined by two factors: capacity for memory wafers worldwide and the number of bits per wafer."   The industry has adopted the term "bit growth" to describe this phenomenon. 
For me personally, this brings back memories of a graduate seminar taught by Professor Edwin B. Parker at Stanford University in the late 1970s, where he explained Moore's Law in simple terms.   As Ed told us, the cost of storing one bit of information keeps decreasing as the capacity of semiconductors increases.   Today I understand more fully that "bit growth" means exponential increases in the human ability to store, compute and communicate digital information.  This phenomenon is at the heart of the digital revolution and is well understood by Korea's industry, government and academic leaders.  There is risk involved because semiconductors are now a commodity and subject to huge cyclical swings.  However, it appears that Korean leaders may once again be making a prudent investment in the digital future.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fake news, search, and Korea's problem with portals

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Readers of this blog will know that I've posted frequently over the years about the continued dominance of Naver in Korea while Google became the dominant Internet search engine in all but a small handful of countries. (see these posts, for example)  To understand this dominance, one must first understand that, strictly speaking, Naver is a web portal and not a search engine.  This overwhelming preference among Koreans for Naver is also understandable because its content is almost entirely in the Korean language and is presented in a manner that fits well with Korean cultural preferences.   However, the almost-exclusive use of Naver by some also illustrates the Korean proverb "frog in a well."
The Korea Joongang Daily has published an informative article entitled "Debriefing:  Korea's problem with portals."   I recommend it.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

To read James F. Larson's books and monographs

I've just revised my personal website (http://www.jamesflarson.com/) to include links that allow full-text PDF downloads of nearly all my books and monographs. One exception is Digital Development in Korea, my 2011 book with Dr. Myung Oh, which is still under copyright with Routledge.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dr. Oh Myung: Leader and representative technocrat

Two events in the spring of 2017 call attention to the remarkable achievements of Dr. Oh Myung (Myung Oh in typical American style with given name preceding family name), widely acknowledged to be the "godfather" of South Korea's ICT-driven digital development.  As illustrated in the video (above) created on the occasion of Dr. Oh's induction as the first member of the CEAS Alumni Hall of Fame at Stony Brook University, his contributions extend far beyond the ICT sector.
In March of 2017 a ceremony was held to name a wing of the SUNY Korea complex "Oh Myung Hall" in honor of Dr. Oh's many achievements. (Click on the photographs for a full-size version.)