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This classic 16mm Bell Labs film from my archives goes all-in to show every step of the amazing manufacturing process for integrated circuits at the height of American microchip manufacturing in the 1980's. Can you imagine working every day in a clean room toiling over a vat of fuming nitric acid and swishing cocktails of extremely toxic solvents, day in and day out? So many of these places became Superfund sites. Well.... Enjoy!
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14 thoughts on “Integrated circuit manufacturing at bell labs 1983”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars sj193 says:

    My grandma worked there at this time! I got to visit in the mid 90's as a toddler and I still remember how cool it was there

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars david bone says:

    I thought I saw THX 1138
    sorting waffers

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Jac Goudsmit says:

    It's amazing how almost all the steps in the process required so much manual labor back then. Nowadays, every single step is done by robots, and the humans are only there to make sure the machines keep working.
    Too bad they skip the lithography step by the way, where the patterns of a chip are transferred to the silicon by laser light. I worked at ASML for a while (which is now the number one producer of lithography equipment but didn't exist back in 1983 I think) and even if you would focus on just that part of the process, there's so much to learn.

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Wesley Nixon says:

    I was in the industry for 10 years (Equipment Automation, can you say SECS?), and this was a very entertaining video. Like other commenters, I was aghast to see unmasked faces and exposed denim. Brings back so many memories!

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars OnHoldAt50 says:

    Interesting how they claim a narrow application such as telephony (LOL). Modern processes have taken the human almost completely out of the process now. Thanks Fran!

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Brian Roberge says:

    I will always be fascinated by IC's.

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Michael Stevens says:

    My dad worked at Cincinnati Milacron in the 1980s and '90s. They produced 4" and upto 6" Silicon wafers. I got to see the ovens where they grew the Silicon tubes from a 'seed.' We had many of the blank wafers before they were doped and coated. It's amazing how much the technology has improved since these times. They used Nitrogen as an inert gas and had detectors throughout the building in case there was a leak. They also used Hydrofluoric acid as a cleaning agent. This was extremely dangerous. EDIT: Bell Laboratories, also known as Ma Bell, was broken up in January 1982. I wonder if this was part of their marketing campaign to paint a better picture of the company as a whole.

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Brian Morisset says:

    I had to wear the full "Bunny" suit when I worked at ATMEL in the fab making chips

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Tom Schmidt says:

    Wow what a blast from the past. Thanks for posting. It was strange seeing such small wafers and highly manual processing.

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Derek Foulk says:

    At corning several years ago I was told someone in China was opening the outside door to smoke causing the a quality to dip. Clean room my butt. Lol

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars A&D says:

    I work in a new fab now and this was so cool to watch. Surprisingly still the process in ways except the human inputs and scales are all way different.

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Donny Sandley says:


  13. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Jah Mark says:

    thanks Fran 🙂

  14. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Nuts n Proud says:

    I remember when our phone line went touch tone. We lost service in the middle of the night for about 10 minutes. I was on a call to a friend when it went silent. When the dial tone came back it was different and I called the operator who said we got a better service now if we bought a new touch tone phone that beeps instead of the old clicks. Now our phone plugs into the internet box. How times have changed.

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