Price Fixing in the Memory Market

The unfolding tale of an ineffective DRAM conspiracy

4 min read

The U.S. Department of Justice has been looking into allegations of price fixing in the memory industry for more than two years. In September, Infineon Technologies AG, headquartered in Munich, Germany, agreed to plead guilty to participating in an international conspiracy to fix prices for dynamic random-access memories (DRAM) sold to certain PC and server makers in the United States from July 1999 to June 2002. It agreed to pay US $160 million in fines and cooperate with the investigation. Ironically, apparently this particular conspiracy to fix the price of DRAMs, a commodity product, was hardly successful. Yet Infineon surely will not be the only chip maker to face fines.

In the last five years, consolidation in the DRAM industry has winnowed the number of major producers down to a group small enough to form an effective cartel, making for a tempting situation [see " DRAM Inc."] Even so, there is nothing in the industry's recent trends that clearly points to a conspiracy that succeeded in boosting prices, say analysts. And from their knowledge of the industry, these experts find it hard to imagine DRAM companies agreeing on prices and actually sticking to the agreement.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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