When Written: Oct 2011
As is often the case at this time of the year I am writing this column from a remote part of the globe. Well, when I say remote, what I really mean this year is that I am talking about the Netherlands, and an area called Veldhoven. The reason for my temporary relocation is the 40th World Bridge Championships which I am attending in my role as a member of the IT committee. Before coming out here I knew little about this area which is apparently the centre in the Netherlands for High Tech industries called BrainPort.
The guys at ASML are at the forefront of chip lithography, totally clean room factory
One day we were treated to a guided tour of the sponsors ASML factory (http://www.asml.com ), a large semiconductor lithography plant that makes the machines that are used to produce semiconductor devices around the world. We were treated to a presentation on their next generation of machines which will be producing the sub 10 nm chips. Apparently this company is the only one in the world making such machines that will produce the next generation of chips in a couple of years’ time. At 75 million Euro for a standard machine with no extras this is serious big boy stuff! The mirrors that focus the laser have to be so smooth that apparently if they were the size of this planet the highest point on the mirror would be no more than 2 mm. The silicon wafer sits on a bed that floats on a 1.5 Tesla magnetic field and is subjected to an acceleration of nearly 80 G as it is moved under the laser! There is also a Philips Research Unit here where the CD was invented all those years ago as well as the Tom-Tom research department .
The Bridge Championships are being held in a huge conference centre and hotel complex set in a forest with a lake that was once a convent and school. The advantage of being so near a hub of Hi Tech industries was apparent as soon as I plugged my laptop into the provided network, a quick test with speedtest ( http://speedtest.net ) showed up and download speeds in the order of 80Mbps ! I could be tempted to move house for speeds like that!
With Broadband speeds up to 80M Brain port is the place to be for geeks!
There is the usual heavy use of IT at these championships but of particular interest this year is the trial of new playing tables which have cameras installed to record all the play via optical character recognition. This has been a bit of a ‘Holy Grail’ type of quest in Bridge so it will be interesting to see how successful it will be.
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton