Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Santa Clara Vanguard - An Inspiration for Silicon Valley

Extreme UltraViolet Lithography is behind schedule on the HVM time line. Free electron EUV lasers are years away. 450mm insertion has been delayed till 2018. Photoresist resist remains sensitive to shot noise. Intel has idled fab 42. Whose guidance might inspire silicon valley to persevere in the face of forward looking physics, a marginal economy and sustain our esprit de corps? The answer: Santa Clara's Vanguard. Of whom am I speaking? Applied Materials? KLA-Tencor? Lam Research? A safe bet would include all of the above, but I'm referring to "The" Santa Clara Vanguard [1], a world class, world champion, drum and bugle corps who cohabit the dominion of Santa Clara along with our historically iconic semiconductor industry giants. You might ask, "What similarities are there between a drum and bugle corps and those of us in the semiconductor industry?" The answer: Inspiration, perspiration, persistence, precision, performance, pride, creativity, dedication, diversity, endurance, integrity, grace under pressure and class (to name a few).

I will digress and explain. In the early 1990s I tuned into a cable TV sports channel featuring coverage of Drum Corps International's drum and bugle corps championship competition. Among the many talented participants was the Santa Clara Vanguard. Having worked in the semiconductor industry all of my life, it was gratifying to know Santa Clara was represented in the competition. I watched with great interest, inspired by the military like precision of the first corps of performers, while suppressing my instinct to march in their formation. After many cheers and applause, the opening performers exited the field in orderly formation. The PA system blared as the stadium's master of ceremonies announced the Santa Clara Vanguard. A hush fell over the noisy stadium until all was quiet. A very large, formidable looking formation entered the field pacing to a silent cadence and assembled in an abstract formation in the center of the stadium. Their formation was a mix of bugles, big brass, an enormous drum line and percussion group, along with a large complement of precision performers accompanied by several formations of color guardsmen. The silence peaked, the Vanguard's drum major raised his baton and the performance began. What did they play? The Washington Post March? No. The PA system blared again with the master of ceremonies announcing the Santa Clara Vanguard performing "The Phantom of the Opera" [2], a seemingly formidable artistic challenge for a drum and bugle corps. To my amazement, the Vanguard had engineered a precision performance, incorporating elements of the Broadway play's music, punctuated by the abstract directed self assembly of the marching corps and prop equipped performers. The performance was a mesmerizing musical spectacle of a kind I had never seen before. Neither had anyone else. It was genius. The Vanguard had transitioned the drum and bugle corps' routine from military pomp and circumstance into a precision crafted, creatively controlled crescendo on steroids. In addition to the brilliant musical performance, their formations on the field were so fractally fluid, I wondered how it was possible for hundreds of humans to multi-task in such abstract unison and some how make it look easy. Sophistication, performance and class have come to define the Santa Clara Vanguard. Sound familiar?

A few years later, I learned a Drum Corps International [3] championship competition was to take place in Allentown, Pennsylvania. One of the many corps scheduled to compete was the Santa Clara Vanguard. As my car's autopilot had negotiated many trips to Allentown visiting AT&T, I decided to make the trek and see the Vanguard in a live performance. Determining the Vanguard would not require applications support, I brought my wife (at the time) along instead of the normal complement of field engineers.  We arrived in Allentown an hour before the performance, found the stadium, and parked the car. It was dusk and the parking lot was darkened under a large tree line. My wife and I began walking through the large, dimly illuminated parking field. After walking a minute or so, I sensed we were being followed by unknowns emerging from the periphery of the wooded parking field. My New Yorker instincts fully functional, I turned to confirm my suspicions. We were being followed. I motioned my wife to stop and we held our position to observe those approaching from our rear. Out of the dusk and darkness appeared a large group of men and women now about a hundred feet away in the shadows. As they got closer we realized they were in formation, silently and rapidly approaching our observation point. Curiously, we held our position as they passed near by. It was Dutch Boy [4], a Canadian drum and bugle corps there for the competition. Surmising they may have startled us in the darkness, one of them cheerfully shouted, "Don't worry, we're just passing through." Everyone laughed and we knew we were in good company. Their drum corps began a cadence by clicking their sticks on the rims of their snare drums and we paced their formation to the stadium.

The competition that followed was an incredible display of showmanship and precision. Approximately ten groups were in contention. Dutch Boy placed well that evening and won several awards but unfortunately disbanded a few years later in 1993. The Santa Clara Vanguard performed their rendition of "Phantom" which was even more amazing in the live stadium setting. Over the course of the years, "The Vanguard" has won many awards, and six Drum Corps International World Championships. When they take the field, they appear as a massive formation in their crimson red and black uniforms. Topped with classic "Aussie" hats and their signature sash and SCV stars, they exude power, grace and precision. If you've never seen the Santa Clara Vanguard perform, make room on your agenda. They're among the best of the best on the field of competition, an expectation common to the Santa Clara tradition we share.

I was inspired to write this story years later after recently discovering and viewing several Santa Clara Vanguard videos on YouTube. Playing one of the the videos, I was taken by the power of the performance and the recollection that I had heard the same musical piece early in my years. My excellent memory recalled the time and place. It was from watching news programs and documentaries on television. An Internet search took me to the suspected source. Years ago, the CBS television network aired a program "CBS Reports", an excellent weekly news program of investigative TV journalism. It's inspiring introductory musical score was played by the CBS Symphony Orchestra. Its title, "Simple Gifts". I clicked on the link to one of CBS's archived episodes, and there was the inspirational music I remembered, played almost identically by the Santa Clara Vanguard years later in an inspiring drum and bugle corps rendition. In this more recent video performance posted on YouTube, the Santa Clara Vanguard moves forward acrossed the field in a massive formation, later exiting via DSA (Directed Self Assembly) to give way to a field of angelic performers. The truly symbolic uplifting of a singular performer on a field of competition in temperatures in excess of one hundred degrees provides us with an inspiring image of grace under pressure. I highly recommend you follow the YouTube link to the Vanguard's performance of “Simple Gifts” [5] which is powerful both visually and musically. As we negotiate life, careers and our future, the Vanguard's video, "40 Years of Class" might remind us of our past and help prepare us for the path ahead.

If you've worked in the semiconductor industry over the years and have witnessed the evolution of technology in progress, you're aware that the highly competitive environment is pervasive and that theory and reality are bridged by similar (but different) disciplines and performances. In a similar analogy, a recent New York Times article which chronicles the life of physicist Peter Higgs [7], renowned for correctly theorizing what is now called the "Higgs boson, it was revealed that he doesn't own a television, cell phone or have an email account. No one at CERN seemed to notice, and last October 8, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his theory and later confirmed discovery.

The semiconductor engineering challenges we face in future nano and picometer pursuits will require a cooperative effort on a global scale, and a broader base of competition. In the face of seemingly insurmountable physical laws delaying EUV and other critical programs, we must apply focused effort and creativity in a strategically competitive global environment. DSA on a stepper field might be engineered with creativity found on a larger field of competition [8] (note the Vanguard on the twenty yard line). You get the idea.

Thanks for visiting my blog site.  See you on the web.

Thomas D. Jay
Semiconductor Industry Consultant
Thomas D. Jay YouTube Channel

Corporate, private entities or publications referenced or linked in this article are the respective owners of their logos, trademarks, service marks, media content and intellectual property.  Unless otherwise disclosed, Thomas D. Jay has no financial interest in companies referenced in blog articles or other published media communications. No representation is made to either buy or sell securities. Opinions expressed by Thomas D. Jay are his own. Thomas D. Jay does not employ or otherwise utilize/authorize third party agents to express his opinions, represent his interests or conduct business on his behalf except where formally contractually designated.

Acknowledgements and Reference Links

[1] The Santa Clara Vanguard

[2] The Phantom of the Opra, The Santa Clara Vanguard

[3] Drum Corps International (DCI)

[4] Dutch Boy

[5] Simple Gifts

[6] 40 Years of Class, The Santa Clara Vanguard

[7] Peter Higgs

[8] A Larger Field of Competition