Microchips Are the “Brains” of Every Electronic Device in the World and They’re Becoming Scarce

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by J.G. Martinez, The Organic Prepper:

Generally speaking, computers were created to make our lives better. I love them, indeed. I can’t imagine a day without sitting in front of my monitor to write or watch a couple of videos before going to bed. I’ve written a few articles about how technology can indeed provide us quite strong support in some of our activities.

For example, computers help with surveillance, automation of things such as gate openings, lights, and even windows. You know, all that SmartHome new-age stuff that you may or may not find helpful. Many people use computers to make a side income. In my case, these days, it is the primary income, indeed. In some homes, computers are used for communications and record-keeping, among other things. 

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The world is facing a microchip shortage

Everything nowadays uses a chip. Fridges. Laundry machines. Air conditioning. You don’t want to know how many chips your car needs. And now the world faces a microchip scarcity – 34%  under the market demand has surfaced. Why? This situation presents because of geopolitical factors that the pandemic made worse. Let’s remember when the US administration tightened the regulations for sales of semiconductors to firms like Huawei and ZT. 

Harvard Business Review authors wrote

Geopolitical factors also played a role, specifically when the Trump administration began tightly regulating sales of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies, ZTE, and other Chinese firms. Those companies began stockpiling chips essential to 5G smartphones and other products. At the same time, American firms were cut off from chips made by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation after the federal government blacklisted the firm.

It’s not like this couldn’t have been impeded. Modern practices like “Just on time” deliveries of parts for assembly (a clever idea to avoid paying money for storage warehouses) left many industries extremely vulnerable to chain supply disruptions. 

Lockdowns led to more people at home needing computers and gaming consoles

The pandemic lockdowns, led to an increased demand for work-at-home devices. More people than ever are working from home and more children are attending school via computer “distance learning.”

An article published on New Scientist had this to say about why we are experiencing this shortage:

The covid-19 pandemic caused an initial slump in car sales of up to 50 per cent, because few people were travelling anywhere and confidence in the economy was low. Car companies reacted by slimming down manufacturing and reducing orders for parts. This included huge numbers of computer chips, because modern cars contain dozens of them to control everything from braking to steering and engine management. According to research firm IHS Markit, 672,000 fewer vehicles than usual will have been made in the first quarter of 2021 as a result.

At the same time, there was a rush for home office items like laptops and smartphones, vital because many people transitioned to working from home. There was a similar rush for games consoles, so that people had something to do to keep their minds off the global pandemic.

The big factories supplying manufacturers switched from making car components to smartphone, laptop and tablet chips instead. In fact, production is going stronger than ever in terms of total sales, and the problem is as much about demand as supply. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) says that chip sales in January 2021 hit $40 billion, which is up 13.2 per cent on the same month last year.

How will this shortage affect us?

Hard to say. Just as a general idea, if your car needs an ECU to work and suddenly it stops working, you might be in an uncomfortable position. If you’re in your homestead 30 km away from civilization in the middle of the winter, you’re in a potentially dangerous problem. Just imagine, God forbid, a member of the family needs medical attention. No Bueno. I believe technology is good for us. For most of us, at least. But being an engineer who preps, I am a bit biased. I know how valuable reliable equipment is. 

The auto industry is calling this the “Second COVID Shutdown.” 

“It’s a temporary, but very, very harmful shortage for the auto industry,” to lose essentially the “brain” of the modern-day vehicle. ~ Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association.

Even cell phone manufacturers are taking the hit:

“There’s a shortage of microchips this year. It’s not just shortfall but severe shortage,” Lu Weibing, vice president of Xiaomi group said on his Weibo account on Feb 24.

Jiang Xiaofeng, sales director of Umidigi, a Chinese mobile phone company, told Global Times on Monday that the whole industry is facing challenges including increasing prices of raw materials and even running out of stock.

“Due to the influence of COVID-19, the cost of mobile phone manufacturing industry is rising rapidly.” said Jiang.

Chips are everything? Woah, not so fast, amigo. It does not have to be that way.

In a report I read, the following caught my attention:

“Chips are everything,” says Neil Campling, media and tech analyst at Mirabaud. “There is a perfect storm of supply and demand factors going on here. But basically, there is a new level of demand that can’t be kept up with, everyone is in crisis, and it is getting worse.”

As much as I would hate to have to use a typewriter to complete this article or have to use a vintage terminal to send it via packet radio, I would still do so. Computers were designed to ease our life, not to enslave them. That will be one of the hardest lessons for me when we return home. I will not be on the internet most of my day. I will instead make my hutch a suitable living place and keep working on the kiddo’s education. With a basic PC, our books, and someone with a teacher’s degree authorized to sign his grades, we can advance a lot.

Simplicity, redundancy, and practicality is my advice

Perhaps it is best that these microchips not be “everything” for us. Tech can make us lazy if we rely on it more than we should. Not everyone has a degree in mechanical engineering. And Daisy has long recommended low-tech prepping.

I can tell you it is going to be much easier to find someone to fix that old diesel on your truck than an ECU for your fancy fuel-injected SUV if this stuff keeps going the way it is. I’ll take the old, non-chip diesel, thanks. And the generator. Sure, my solar array will be in place, but the freezer and most of the stuff running will be as simple as can be. I will be sure to leave behind well-written maintenance and repair procedures for the coming generations!

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