Chang, Morris

▪ 2000

      While the Asian economic crisis battered such regional powerhouses as Japan, South Korea, and China in the late 1990s, the economy of tiny Taiwan remained relatively stable, owing largely to the island's solid footing in the high-technology industry. Perhaps no one was more responsible for Taiwan's emergence as a high-tech leader than Morris Chang, the Chinese-born chief executive officer of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). In the mid-1980s Chang realized that electronics firms increasingly would need to outsource in order to cut costs, so he decided to create a company that would work under contract to meet the design needs of such firms by making chips and other electronic devices. With help from the Taiwanese government, he founded TSMC and built it into one of the world's most profitable chip makers. By 1999 TSMC counted among its clients corporations around the globe, including Motorola, Siemens, and Texas Instruments, and enjoyed net sales of more than $1.5 billion annually.

      Chang was born on July 10, 1931, in Ningpo, Chekiang province, China. His first ambition was to become a writer, but his father dissuaded him from the idea. In 1949 Chang moved to the U.S. to attend Harvard University. He later transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned B.S. (1952) and M.S. (1953) degrees in mechanical engineering. Chang landed a job at Texas Instruments as an engineering manager in 1958. He received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1964.

      In his 25 years at Texas Instruments, Chang moved up steadily, eventually becoming senior vice president in charge of the company's global semiconductor business. He left Texas Instruments in 1984 to become president of General Instrument Co., but a year later the Taiwanese government recruited him to take over as president of its Industrial Technology Research Institute. Charged with developing Taiwan's fledgling semiconductor industry, Chang came up with the idea for TSMC. He later became a leading promoter of e-commerce, placing a “technology library” on the Internet that allowed users to access information on TSMC's products and designs. Despite his busy schedule as CEO, Chang still found time to pursue his original passion for writing. The Autobiography of Morris C.M. Chang—Volume I (1931–1964) appeared in 1998.

      A beloved figure in Taiwan, Chang was revered not only for his business acumen but for the concern he showed for his customers and for the island itself. In the wake of the deadly earthquake that hit Taiwan in September 1999, Chang pushed his managers to restore the company's production to 90% of capacity within days of the disaster, and TSMC donated $6.3 million in relief funds to the Red Cross.

Sherman Hollar

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Universalium. 2010.

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