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We tipped up at Fab 30 in Dresden blissfully, and unaware of a document called a non-disclosure agreement and so were ready and willing to walk around and admire AMD's fancy collection of electron microscopes, unfettered by bits of paper we'd never seen or even discussed. In one of the offices, we talked to a crystallographer whose main task in life seemed to be to use a beam electron microscope to examine copper wafers for bugs. Fab 30 in Sultry, Sexy modeWe asked him if he was bored by this task and he claimed he wasn't. Indeed, he said, the microscopes he was allowed to use in the Fab were much quicker than the ones in the university... When we arrived at the facility, a pleasant receptionist had asked us what we had in our bag. In particular, she wanted to know whether we had a camera. Being honest, we said: "Yes" at which point she said, very nicely: "Hand it over then." We felt like we couldn't refuse...but at least it gave us the opportunity to try and paint the picture with words rather than just snap the naked truth... And here's the picture. AMD's fab in Dresden only has 830 people working in it -- and although there are many cubicles and desks there, most of them have boxed PCs waiting to be unpacked. Many of the PCs already unpacked are HP Kayaks, with the Intel Inside logo proudly displayed inside the AMD Fab.... And so it goes. The vast acres of car park are also unpopulated by Trabants or Nissans, although we Euro-journalists had many a giggle when the German suits showed us a Trabant complete with the AMD logo outside. Down by the swift-flowing, notwithstanding very smelly, Elbe, where we had dinner with our colleagues and new friends, we were able to briefly scan the horizon to see how well the Saxony government was doing re-building Dresden. The long in the tooth will remember that during the Second World War, the so-called most beautiful city in Europe was comprehensively trashed by the Allies. The Allies extended their wishes for a better world by also trashing Meissen -- down the road -- and Leipzig, which has one of the oldest European un iversities in the world. The communists, who failed to relinquish their war booty called East Germany for many years after the French, the Americans and the Brits had said: "Go on -- be a democracy", vowed to rebuild Dresden, brick by brick. Amazingly, that job is not yet done. One young American GI, called Kurt Vonnegut, found himself in Dresden after being taken prisoner and was employed, as slave labour, in a place called Slaughterhouse Five. Because he was working deep in a dungeon, he escaped the massive firestorm unleashed by the Allies on Dresden, Meissen et al, only to emerge the next morning to find the entire place, including the five star Kempinski Hotel, had melted. The intensity of the firestorm was such that anything with sand in it melted. Vonnegut trekked across the rubble and glaze for miles before meeting a single human soul. The crystallographer at Fab 30 must feel the same way, we thought, having to gaze at trenches and drains all day long. But Werner was upbeat and even optimistic. Because just a week or two earlier, his fast electron microscope had discovered a real organic bug on a wafer. He had a picture of it on his wall and very interesting it was too. You don't expect to find anything alive on a wafer subjected to the kind of processes used in fabs. Most of the time, all you find on the glazed and polished surface of wafers are bits of stray silicon and the odd human particulate. But this thing was like the Blob, with tentacles and everything. Perhaps, as science fiction writer Vonnegut once speculated, all you have to do is to substitute silicon (Si, 14) for carbon (C, 6) to give birth to a new race of beings that don't even need phlogiston. And so it goes... ® See also AMD+Dresden Sandpit II Intel makes The Register sweat IV

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