The 1980s were a time of extraordinary growth as well as some angst in the semiconductor industry. Chip sales skyrocketed from about $10 billion in 1979 to $100 billion by the early 1990s. The personal computer, introduced in 1981, was a mainstream product by the end of the decade. Consequently, demand for microprocessors, logic and DRAM exploded. As a mass market for semiconductors swelled, the industry developed innovations in packaging and manufacturing to improve high-volume production.
At the same time, the semiconductor industry was becoming more global. Low-cost DRAMs from overseas caused trade friction. Ultimately, many U.S. DRAM manufacturers exited the market.
Despite the trade disputes, JEDEC committees diligently kept pace with rapid developments. While JC-13 and the military had dominated in the 1970s, the growth in the computer industry in the 1980s put the spotlight on memory, packaging and high-volume production. Moore’s law proved accurate: the number of transistors in ICs exploded. Both JC-42 (memory) and JC-11 (packaging) became prominent committees, drawing more than 100 people to their meetings, according to Ken McGhee, a long-time JEDEC staff member.
JEDEC developed packaging standards for DRAM components and, in the late 1980s, for memory modules. “The standards that came out of JC-42 and its subcommittees are why we can upgrade PC memory so easily,” said Mark Bird, a JEDEC volunteer since the 1970s. “We standardized the individual component configuration, the SIMMs, the sockets they go into, and the functionality of every one of those devices.”
The 1980s also saw widespread adoption of surface-mount technology, which brought further package and manufacturing challenges. As the industry moved from plastic DIPs to plastic leaded chip carriers and small-outline IC packages, JEDEC developed specifications and standards to ensure manufacturability, reliability and quality. The small surface-mount components, for example, weren’t as flexible as the traditional components. “We had to figure out how to protect the device so it wouldn’t crack” when it was placed on the printed circuit board, said David Sweetman, a long-time JEDEC volunteer who has served on a variety of committees. By the end of the decade, JEDEC published mechanical piece-part outlines specifically for surface mounting, helping to expand the surface-mount market.
As vertically integrated companies realized that they didn’t have to do everything themselves, contract manufacturers emerged. Assembly, fabrication and testing started gravitating to Asia, and the makeup of JEDEC committees became more international, according to Sweetman. What’s more, as production was outsourced the industry needed standards and specifications on procurement and manufacturing quality. In 1988, for example, JEDEC published standards for statistical process control and for measuring quality in parts per million.
JEDEC publishes EIA471, Symbol and Label for Electrostatic Sensitive Devices. This label is widely used throughout the world for the handling of semiconductor devices and ICs to avoid electrostatic damage to devices.
The IBM PC debuts.
ANSI approves EIA as an accredited standards-developing organization. EIA standards become ANSI standards.
Intel drops out of DRAM market.
U.S. and Japan sign the Semiconductor Trade Agreement.
Intel introduces the 80486, which offers 1.2 million transistors and the first built-in math co-processor.