I recently stumbled upon modern hi-res color photos of ancient soviet chip making equipment from the 80s:



You can see some primitive machines for photolithography, inspection, wire bonding, etc.

I tried to find similar images of western machines of the same age.

I see some sites like https://semiwiki.com or https://www.chiphistory.org/exhibits/, but all they have are black and white low-res scans of newspaper clippings or promotional drawings. Is it possible that old chip making factories were dismantled before modern photography was invented? And all this history is gone? Computer museums preserve old computers, but, I guess, nobody is trying to preserve an old stepper or electron microscope?

So, the question is whether you know of a good image collection.

  • 1
    Not sure what kind of photos you need, but this entertaining video purports to show MOS employees in 1982 using their chip design and manufacturing equipment: youtu.be/WBqGyf8eQVk
    – Brian H
    Commented May 29, 2022 at 20:43
  • @BrianH youtu.be/WBqGyf8eQVk - interesting, but the same problem - horrible 19-th century image quality. Did they intentionally blur the video or recorded it from TV screen?
    – jhnlmn
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 0:13
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    @jhnlmn, 1982 is in the 20th century. Did you mean to say "horrible 20th century image quality"?
    – JRN
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 2:01
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    @JoelReyesNoche No. In the 1980-ties photographers were making very good images, but this video youtu.be/WBqGyf8eQVk and all other historical semiconductor photos that I was able to find are extremely poor, blurry, low-res - truly this is 19-th century image quality. May be they intentionally blurred them against russian spies?
    – jhnlmn
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 4:24
  • Indeed, it appears that none of the industry magazines I used to get have online archives going back that far. Hmmm... I'll keep looking.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


Computer museums preserve old computers, but, I guess, nobody is trying to preserve an old stepper or electron microscope?

Pretty much. I've found it extremely difficult to find images for much of this equipment. I guess its because we don't value tools, we value the products built by the tools. Also, many of these machines had second lives at smaller companies making simpler designs, so they were handed off down the line until they got to places that simply disappeared. I suspect much of that kit just got melted.

A good example is the P-E Micraline. This completely revolutionized the chip industry in the early 1970s. It's pretty much the only reason you've heard the name "Intel" - their memory devices kept the lights on and those were competitive because they used this machine. But go ahead and try to find a good image of one - a couple of fliers, that's about it.

  • Don't value tools? Computers are tools.
    – dave
    Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 16:45
  • What you wrote about tools and second life is also true for steam locomotives, but public is so fascinated by then, that every historical model of a steam locomotive has a wiki page, tons of good photos and many are carefully preserved. Is it possible to attract attention to disappearing semi history and raise interest in preserving it, at least in photos? I guess nobody will permit making detailed photos of a new factory, but it should be a standard practice to fully document an old factory before tearing it down.
    – jhnlmn
    Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 21:29
  • The same reason why very little of the professional computers (ibm 370, dec vax, hp 9825 etc) is still extant in Sweden : few was sold to begin with, the buyer was the only user, no enthusiasts who got to keep an machine so the machine could live on instead it went to the melting plant in Rönnskär, compared with the US there enough machine was sold so that some of them could end up in the ownership of one single individual, and very few individual americans got their hand on an semiconductor manufacture machine. Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 11:51

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