Economic Impact of Large Public Programs: The NASA Experience

By Eli Ginzberg; James W. Kuhn et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
New Industries: Public Support for Semiconductor and Computer Development

Electronics has been one of the world's fastest growing industries during the twentieth century, expanding almost a hundredfold between 1939 and 1974. The industry's most rapid expansion has occurred since the mid-1950s as the result of dramatic growth in world computer and semiconductor markets. The early development and subsequent growth of these two sectors of the electronics industry have been due to the significant technological advances since World War II.

American firms have dominated the semiconductor (solid-state electronic components) and computer industries since their post World War IIorigins. International Business Machines, for example, accounts for more than two-thirds of all computer installations both inside and outside the United States. In semiconductors, American firms have carried out all of the notable innovations since Bell Laboratories discovered the transistor in 1948 ( Freeman, 1965, p. 1).

Large U.S. government programs in national defense and space exploration have played a major role in the development of the nation's computer and semiconductor industries. This chapter identifies and describes three types of influence -- economic, technological, and manpower -- which the space and defense programs exerted on these new industries. A comprehensive analysis of all three impact categories is needed to understand the full

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