Tag Archive: DRAM


“A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” – General George S. Patton

A happy problem, but still a dilemma, for organizations/movements/great leaders, who have just achieved long-sought landmark accomplishments, is: What will you do for an encore?

For championship college and professional sports teams the answer is relatively easy to state, harder to achieve: repeat. The Chicago Blackhawks are tasked with skating the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in seven seasons next spring. The Golden State Warriors are faced with the challenge of winning back-to-back NBA titles, something that has never occurred in the franchise’s mostly desultory history.

[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Gay-rights activists gathered outside of the Supreme Court on the morning when the Court handed down its decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Gay-rights activists gathered outside of the Supreme Court on the morning when the Court handed down its decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

For the same-sex marriage movement the June 26 Supreme Court ruling, legalizing the right of gay people to marry, was made by a razor-thin 5-4 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The impact nonetheless was 50-0 as every state is immediately and permanently required to permit the performing of same-sex unions, and to recognize their legality regardless of where or how (e.g., civil, religious) they occur.

The next question, which has already been posed by The New York Times and others, for the successful civil rights campaign, is what comes next? The answer will come in the form of celebrating a great political and society victory (e.g., Pride Parades). Eventually, the cheering will subside and the reality of everyday life and the challenge of American politics returns. Now what? Certainly, there is the continued necessity of protecting hard-earned rights and preventing discrimination, and that makes sense; still the question must be posed:

What comes next?

This is an easy question to pose, much more difficult to answer … and with it, the dilemma that has vexed organizations, movements and great characters throughout the course of history.

“One Small Step for Man; One Giant Leap for Mankind”

Let’s face it: NASA has not been the same since 1969.armstrongmoon

Neil Armstrong defied death, and made it to-and-from the moon with far less computing power than can be found in a modern-day smart phone. The first man on the moon had his ticker tape parade upon returning to Mother Earth. His place in the history books is cemented. Undoubtedly, his obits had already been written by the day the Grim Reaper came-a-calling in 2012.

In the face of competing budgetary demands and $18 trillion in record red ink and counting at $3.3 billion per day at the federal level, NASA has become just another agency with a huge public relations problem as it must justify its existence in the absence of any realistic plans to put humans on other planets anytime soon.

The current edition of National Geographic has a cover story about NASA, the New Horizons spacecraft, and hopefully the first ever photos of Pluto, expected on July 14. Checking out the last planet of the solar system is cool, but Armstrong walking on the moon was legendary.

Gone are the days of John F. Kennedy and the Cold War competition and the call to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Yes, we won that technology contest against the Soviet Union, and just 22 years after Armstrong walked on the moon, the USSR collapsed. Russia has hardly bothered us since then.

Not as momentous as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on same-sex marriage or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon was an accomplishment dear to the heat of the author of Almost DailyBrett: The opening of the long closed Japan market to foreign designed-and-manufactured semiconductors, including those originating from Silicon Valley.siliconwafer

In my tenure as the director of communications for the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and later as the director of corporate public relations for LSI Logic, yours truly worked for three years on this contentious issue.

At one time, Japan was in its ascendancy having driven Intel Corporation out of the DRAM (dynamic random access memory) market, a technology Intel actually invented. The U.S. semiconductor industry was being ushered into oblivion in the 1980s by Japan Inc.’s “Business is War” practices, the same fate that fell upon America’s pioneering color-TV industry.

The SIA and its members worked with Washington D.C. to stop predatory pricing or dumping of Japanese chips below cost, and finally pried open the Japanese market in 1996. The opening of  Japan and the decades-long recession eased the Japanese competitive threat. The U.S. industry achieved a great victory, but then … you guessed it … the question ensued: What was next for the SIA and its members?

Just like NASA, the SIA has tried one gambit after another to recapture its sense of purpose. The problem is that without an overriding issue (e.g., man on the moon, opening the Japan market), organizations and even individuals (e.g., General Patton when World War II ended) in many cases are never the same again.pattonscott

The war has been won. The cheering has subsided. The reality of what have you done lately ensues. An organization’s, movement’s, leader’s raison d’etre is no longer certain. A new public relations challenge comes to the forefront with no easy answers.

Some organizations, movements and leaders have successfully met the challenge of victory, while others face internal dissension as they struggle to come up with an answer to precisely what they should do for Act II.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gay-marriage-and-other-major-rulings-at-the-supreme-court/2015/06/25/ef75a120-1b6d-11e5-bd7f-4611a60dd8e5_story.html?wpisrc=nl_evening&wpmm=1

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/us/gay-rights-leaders-push-for-federal-civil-rights-protections.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

http://www.biography.com/people/neil-armstrong-9188943

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/632929-for-over-a-thousand-years-roman-conquerors-returning-from-the

 

 

 

“The older you get the more risk you should take. If I were to die tomorrow, I have no complaints. I’ve experienced more than anybody should have expected in a lifetime,” Micron CEO Steve Appleton to a reporter after escaping death in a 2004 plane crash.

He was not so lucky in 2012.

appleton

I first met Steve Appleton in the middle of the night, trying to combat jet lag after a nearly 10-hour flight from San Francisco to Tokyo in 1994. The venue? The hotel bar? Nope, the fitness room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo. He couldn’t sleep either. Time to hit the weights.

Steve was the president of Micron Technology, the leading US producer of memory chips known as DRAMs (pronounced: dee-rams) or Dynamic Random Access Memory. I was the humble director of communications for the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). We were trying to open up the Japan market to foreign chips.

Steve was five years younger than me, and was a classic overachiever. He was also a genuine good guy, who never talked down to anyone and treated me and everybody else with respect. He was a great success story, starting on the Micron factory floor in 1983 and rising to the rank of company chairman 14 years later. Steve was also known for taking risks.

Attending an SIA meeting 10 years later, I went down to the weight room and Steve was not there. I saw him later and joshed him about missing a workout. He made some reference about recovering from an “accident.” That particular accident was an experimental plane crash east of Boise that almost took his life. He suffered a punctured lung, head injuries, a ruptured disk and broken bones. You would think that would be the end of his stunt plane flying. Knowing Steve, that was not the case.

Steve also took his hand (or life in his hands) at skydiving, triathlons and off-road vehicle racing, such as the 1.047 Baja Challenge. Asked about he said in typical Appleton style:

“I don’t know what would be worse than being in the memory business for risk taking. If we were in some stable, monopolistic business, I’d probably get objections from my executive staff about doing this, but they’re all dying to go.”

It was Steve, who died.

Last Friday, Steve took off in a Lancair from the Boise Airport and soon after takeoff, he tried to turn back, the plane stalled, plunged to the ground, and he was dead. There is no doubt that Steve died taking a risk, something he always enjoyed. However, corporate governance experts are starting to wonder out loud whether chief executive officers and other C-level corporate execs should be restricted from yacht racing (e.g. Oracle head Larry Ellison), running with the bulls at Pamplona (US Airways CEO Doug Parker), balloon racing around the world (Virgin founder Richard Branson) and other dangerous activities.

Being an entrepreneur is about risk taking and the rewards (and failures) that come from taking chances. It is one thing to bet it all with shareholder and/or venture capital funding; it is something else to bet your own life thrill seeking.

Reportedly, there have been no securities lawsuits against corporations not reporting dare-devil CEO activities as “material” events under the provisions of the SEC’s Regulation FD or Fair Disclosure. One must wonder how long it will be before securities litigation firms start launching lawsuits for non-disclosure of CEO daredeveil activities as a new way of dipping into corporate deep pockets.

According to the Villanova School of Law, all four professional sports leagues (i.e. MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL) have “other activities” clauses written into player contracts. For example, MLB strictly prohibits players from engaging in boxing or wrestling. Players must receive written consent from teams before going skiing, car or motorcycle riding.

Of course, weird things do occur. Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya missed an appearance in the 2006 American League Championship Series as a result of an injury incurred playing “Guitar Hero” on Sony’s PlayStation 2…go figure. Maybe he was practicing a Pete Townshend pin wheel swoop at his Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster?

Should Micron have grounded Steve Appleton after he endured his severe injuries in 2004 upon the crash of his stunt plane? In hindsight, the answer is obvious. However, even without knowing Steve’s ultimate fate, the 2004 accident should have prompted the board to act decisively to prevent these activities.

That doesn’t mean he couldn’t continue to be a risk taker in the production, sale and marketing of DRAMs against entrenched competition, mainly from Asia. That’s what the board was paying him to do, take calculated (business) risks. Dodging death once in the wake of a stunt plane crash, and then doing it again would not be regarded as “calculated” by most observers.

If the Micron board had acted then and there, Steve would still be with us…Maybe he could have played “Guitar Hero” for thrills instead.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/micron-says-ceo-steve-appleton-has-died-in-a-boise-plane-crash/2012/02/03/gIQA5LCKnQ_story.html

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/are-daredevil-ceos-worth-risk-micron-thought-so-2012-02-07

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/07/insurance-ceo-risk-idUSL2E8D6HDM20120207

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/story/2012-02-03/micron-ceo-plane-crash/52949164/1

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