Valley guys and earthquakes
If anything, prospective partners might have thought Zorin’s proposition was based on a ludicrously low entry fee, with too much of his share being backend loaded. But they’d have kept this view to themselves - either to maximise their own profit, or to avoid being asked to “step outside” the airship where the meeting was held.
But the industry - less than two decades old depending how you date it - was changing, in ways that could undermine the whole logic of the plot even before filming began.
For a start, Zorin’s figures are a little out – he tells his conspirators the Valley is home to “250 plants” and 80 per cent of world microchip manufacturing. These figures put him at odds with the SIA.
A drift of chip manufacturing was already underway out of the Santa Clara Valley by the end of the 1970s. The innovators in computing were also innovators in rationalising production and exploiting near-shore and off-shore production, according to David Laws, a curator with the Semiconductor Special Interest Group at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. Laws is a 40-year veteran of the Valley, having worked at firms from Fairchild to AMD.
This wasn’t just theory; land was already expensive there, while the populace along Route 101 was already acutely aware of the potential environmental impact of the esoteric chemicals being used in chip production, says Laws.
A Zorin plan would miss chip plants like GlobalFoundries' Fab 8, outside Silicon Valley
So by the time Zorin was fleshing out his plan, large-scale fabrication had already moved out of the Valley - AT&T and IBM had always had their own plants elsewhere. Meanwhile, says Laws, packaging and testing had already moved overseas, to the Philippines, Malaysia and Korea. The fabs still in the Valley were focused on prototyping and initial manufacturing.
Nonetheless, Laws says that taking out the Valley “would have been pretty devastating” - but Zorin would have been obliterating brain power, not manufacturing muscle.
“In Silicon Valley you had such breadth of experience, in so many specialisms,” says Laws, whether microprocessors, analogue or mixed signal.
Even with the manufacturing elsewhere, there was enough of a critical mass of brains in the Valley that it would have been hard for the rest of the industry to pick up the slack, at least in terms of future development.
So Zorin probably got it right with his target, although not quite for the reasons he expected, and for a limited time only.
As for his methodology, disguising one's assault as a natural disaster is a great way of covering your tracks. But just how easy is to stage a major earthquake?
The understated response from Roger Musson of The British Geological Survey, Fortean Times contributor and author of the forthcoming book The million death earthquake, is: “It’s not very plausible.”
The concept of a geological lock is standard seismological theory, Musson explains. But Zorin’s method of unpicking it is fanciful.
The San Andreas Fault lies between 5km and 15km below the Valley's surface, he explains, meaning the explosion in the mine Zorin set off to cause the quake catastrophe would have had little practical effect, not least because the energy from explosions tends to be directed upwards.
Likewise, the explosions on the lakes would have resulted in “some spectacular fountains, but not much else.”
However, the producers did not completely ignore earthquake science. Indeed they consulted the BGS on what a seismological monitoring lab should look like. This at least they got right for the few seconds it appears on screen.
“It looks like ours,” observes Musson.
And if the word of scientists is not good enough for you, bear in mind that A View to a Kill is one of the few Bond plots which has been tested in real life. Just over four years after A View to a Kill premiered in San Francisco, the Bay Area was hit with a major Earthquake - the 6.9 point Loma Prietta. While this was enough to collapse freeways and close off whole neighbourhoods of San Francisco, the effect on the semiconductor infrastructure was negligible.
“I don’t think it was a major hiccup,” says Laws. More of a problem was the US’s appetite for orchids and other Asian perishables, which often bumped silicon components off trans-Pacific flights.
“An airplane coming in late was more of a problem [than earthquakes],” he says, reflecting the industry’s increasing reliance on air freight to move parts from fab to testing and assembly plant and back again.
In fact, one plane did go down in the Bay in the '70s, he says, and while all hands survived, a whole over-stretched industry suddenly discovered they might have had parts on it:
“Everyone blamed that disaster for delays to customers."
Next page: It's the brains, stupid
View to a Kill might have been a weak bond film, but I reckon it had one of the best theme tunes.
Duran Duran were named after a baddie in another film, Barberella.
Gotta love Christopher Walken, particularly as Cap'n Koons discussing Butch's father's watch in Pulp Fiction :D. The way he pronounces 'Jim', gets me every time.
Maybe the modern Zorin would be back manufacturing, but adding backdoors to his components so he could control the information infrastructure...oh...wait....shit...you think?
Zorin Telecommunication Enterprise?
Re: Todays target...
But the sad fact is that you can cause a lot more damage, inconvenience and "terror" a lot more cheaply by flying someone else's airplane into a tower. It's taken over a decade for the world to right itself after that at enormous military expense and there's still a lot of things that have never returned to how they were before (e.g. airport security procedures for travellers, certain countries' reputations, etc.)
Taking down the data networks of an entire country is no mean feat - especially given the diversity and sheer number of connections that involves cutting (e.g. taking down satellites too). And you're unlikely to affect the military because they have their own independent means of communication and, if you do, well that's an act of war and someone will get blasted back to the 19th Century pretty damn quickly.
That's the problem with Bond villains - they try to scale up before they've actually created any reasonable mayhem in the first place. Fort Knox, Silicon Valley, global media, a satellite that reflects the Sun, it's all too ambitious for a first hearing of their name and they have a shocking tendency to be susceptible to and victim of pretty young women who know their entire plans.
If you wanted to cause chaos today, take out the DNS servers. Smaller target, easier to do, much more impact (and requires little technical know-how to actually take down once you know where they are). Gain yourself a reputation, and THEN threaten things that would have huge, permanent knock-on effects. Hell, you'd probably do more damage to the world by taking out a certain software company than anything else.
Most likely Bond Villan
Sorry, but not does Larry Ellison look like a Bond villan, but he has his own volcanic Island.
I bet even as we speak he is having it hollowed out and thinking up even more isidious licensing models to fleece companies.
"No, Mr bond. I expect you to die, Just like I killed Ingres"
If he wanted to make some cash out of a faked natural disaster
something like the monsoon that did massive damage to the hard drive manufacturers would be more plausible, if difficult to implement. Or if he wanted to hit other hardware, somewhere like Shenzen would be an ideal target. He could hold Apple to ransom if he managed to threaten new iPhone production. Imagine the psychological damage to the fanbois if their fondleslabs were delayed.
Bond of course would be unflappable as he seems to favour Sony tech.