Monday, February 26, 2007

My thoughts on the new Malaysian Microchip

A friend has asked me about my thoughts on this new chip being touted in the media as Malaysia's greatest development in chip technology. It is also supposed to put us in the technological lead by being the world's smallest RFID chip with built in antenna. Assuming that it all pans out, it could be quite an achievement. However, I'm old enough to remember the hoohah surrounding our first microprocessor (that incidentally, didn't even work properly!).

All the articles are fairly sketchy on technical details. So, I cannot really comment on it from a technical standpoint. I had tried to write a technical comment, but realised that I was making so many assumptions all the way through that I would be essentially writing a work of fiction. So, I stopped. Until I get my hands on more technical information, I'm afraid that I cannot make a technical comment on it.

"Costing six cents each, three versions of the chip were developed after the Malaysian government in 2003 bought the technology and the rights to design, manufacture and market the chip from Japan's FEC Inc." and "The chip is currently being produced in Japan but the minister said there were plans to move manufacturing to Malaysia." ---

However, I'm really wondering why we're calling it a Malaysia Microchip (MM). If the design and manufacture of the chips are all Japanese, I don't know how we're calling it a Malaysian Microchip. The original proton saga was at least made in Malaysia. This chip would be more suitably called a Japanese microchip rather than a Malaysian one.

Another comment that I have is on the whole idea of RFID technology. This is an example of a technology that has a lot of promise, but has not quite gotten off the ground for a really long time now. We're still mostly using barcodes for tagging. As good as RFID is, until it becomes as cheap as paper, it's going to lag behind barcodes for a while yet. Even at 6 cents, the MM is still expensive.

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