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NwAvGuy: The Audio Genius Who Vanished

An anonymous engineer created some of the best DIY audio designs—and his fans want to know where he went

4 min read
Illustration of man head background with small shadow of man walking inside spiral.
Illustration: Brian Stauffer

Some audiophiles spare no expense to get the very best sound-reproduction equipment money can buy. They will happily plunk down US $20,000 for a pair of loudspeakers or pay $1600 for one of the more highly regarded preamplifiers. And price tags an order of magnitude higher are not unheard of.

Expensive stuff looks great and impresses your friends, but does spending more really ensure that you’ll get a better product? Blind testing has proved that proposition is no more true for audio gear than it is for wine. Still, many people who manufacture or review audio equipment persist in making subjective judgments, which are often influenced by the price tag. This practice badly irritated an anonymous electrical engineer known to the world only by his online moniker, NwAvGuy.

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The Godfather of South Korea’s Chip Industry

How Kim Choong-Ki helped the nation become a semiconductor superpower

15 min read
A man in a dark suit, bald with some grey hair, leans against a shiny blue wall, in which he is reflected.

Kim Choong-Ki, now an emeritus professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, was the first professor in South Korea to systematically teach semiconductor engineering.

Korea Academy of Science and Technology
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They were called “Kim’s Mafia.” Kim Choong-Ki himself wouldn’t have put it that way. But it was true what semiconductor engineers in South Korea whispered about his former students: They were everywhere.

Starting in the mid-1980s, as chip manufacturing in the country accelerated, engineers who had studied under Kim at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) assumed top posts in the industry as well as coveted positions teaching or researching semiconductors at universities and government institutes. By the beginning of the 21st century, South Korea had become a dominant power in the global semiconductor market, meeting more than 60 percent of international demand for memory chips alone. Around the world, many of Kim’s protégés were lauded for their brilliant success in transforming the economy of a nation that had just started assembling radio sets in 1959 and was fabricating outdated memory chips in the early ’80s.

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