Art, isn’t that a man’s name?

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semiconductor photoresist

I come from a family of geeks. Not internet geeks, mind you, but living, breathing, original 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s geeks. Father, mother, both brothers – all computer nerds. These people were online about 20 years before Google even became a word. We can even lay claim to a family member (to remain nameless) making national news for an entire week as a young teenager for cracking his school’s computer code, narrowly escaping notoriety only by wisely choosing not to do anything malicious. He just did it for the challenge.

As the lone artist living amongst a houseful of computer folk, I always felt like a bit of an outsider; my focus was always, and has only been, art. Not that I don’t enjoy computers, I do, I just never delved into it the way they did because, frankly, in comparison I would always be behind the curve.

It was, therefore, with great pleasure that I recently felt our worlds finally collide in a fortuitous manner. The following thoughts on light are excerpted from a note from my dad;

I was very involved in the design aspects of semiconductor memory chips. One technology used was very much like silkscreen art, but on a much finer scale, with dimensions in the millionths of centimeters. The 1 cm x 1 cm semiconductor chip would be coated with a photoresist, then exposed to visible light shined through a mask. The exposed areas not defined by the mask would be acid-etched away, and a pattern of millions of conductors would be left on the surface
of the chip. Then another layer, etc… As the demand for memory grew, larger and larger chips would be needed, which exponentially increased the cost, unless the masks could be made to smaller and smaller tolerances.. which is what we did, until the lines on the mask were so close together that visible light would not penetrate through the mask to expose the photoresist. Technically, the issue was that the wavelength of visible light was longer than the spaces on the mask it had to go through. The solution was to go to a different light source – ultraviolet – which had a shorter wavelength than visible light, and to develop a photoresist that would work with it.

A fascinating process, finding the art in science, and the science in art. 

‘Art, isn’t that a man’s name?’   quote by Andy Warhol

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