Book review: ASML's Architects

March 05, 2019 //By Peter Clarke
Book review: ASML's Architects
Peter Clarke reviews ASML's Architects: The story of the engineers who shaped the world's most powerful chip machines.

"ASML's Architects" is an impressive book, a curious book and a book for the curious.

Written by long-time Dutch electronics journalist Rene Raaijmakers, the book tells of the rise of one of Europe's great technology companies. The story moves from the helter-skelter origins within Philips Natlab in Nijmegen in the 1970s through to the years of success in the 1990s with the PAS 5500 platform as ASML grew to rival Nikon and Canon and went public.

ASML is now arguably the pre-eminent power behind modern-day integrated circuit production with its command of extreme ultra-violet lithography. This makes the rise of this Dutch company from tiny engineering origins all the more important and interesting.

At 650 pages the book is highly detailed and does not skimp in the main narrative or in appendices to provide technical background and commercial context. Clearly a labour of love by Raaijmakers but nonetheless an easy read, the story is woven, quite rightly, around the interactions of ambitious, driven engineers and entrepreneurial business people. It also does a good job at going back into the boardroom and revealing arguments and considerations that were not common knowledge at the time; painting a picture of how technology business was really done – and is still done today.

Of course, ASML was – and is – so specialized that this is book may not appeal immediately to the lay reader. It may lack the book-shelf appeal of a similar biographical narrative about the creation of Intel or the early days of Apple or Microsoft or – to come more up-to-date – Google or Facebook.

And yet there is no reason why that should be, because all of these stories are at their essence stories of remarkable, risk-taking individuals who made it through to become influential and global wealth creators.

As with any tale of the Fairchild traitorous eight, or others rooted in Silicon Valley, the fun of this book is in the lucky coincidences, the happenstance meetings and the overall picture of engineers and executives who fought against the odds to fulfil their dreams.

I recommend this book to all who work in the electronics and semiconductor industries and to all who wish to understand people who work in the electronics and semiconductor industries. I recommend it to those that are older who may wish to revisit their past and learn about some of the executives they may have met or done business with.

But most of all recommend it to the young who may be inspired by reading about how a group of Europeans was motivated to create something world-class and achieved it.

This is a translation of the original book published in Dutch in 2017. A second part bringing the story up close to the present day is in preparation.

The 660-page hardback book is published by Techwatch Books in Nijmegen, The Netherlands for €59.00.

Related links and articles:

www.techwatchbooks.nl/architects

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