At the end of November, a fabulous book by Rene Raaijmakers will be released, that describes the history of ASML, the company that now dominates the semiconductor production equipment market. The book provides a fascinating and engaging introduction to the history of ASML, and the semiconductor industry as a whole.

We have been kindly given some early proofs of the book to take a look at, and were hugely impressed by the honest storytelling, readable style and comprehensive research. Journalists tend to be a rather cynical bunch, yet it was clear that Rene was surprised by the rise and rise of ASML. A Dutch company, launched at the time when Philips was seen as the jewel in the Netherland’s technology crown, decided to take on companies like Canon and Nikon that dominated the industry and could bring incredible resources to compete with startups like ASML.

Rene promises a second book that describes what businesses of all kinds can learn from ASML. But this book is about technology, and isn’t your typical dry textbook: for example, she describes how Fritz Klostermann, at the time a young engineer at Philips, was frustrated in his desire to develop step-and-repeat cameras: a key element of semiconductor manufacturing equipment:

“…he’s responsible for an entire service department, with all the accompanying bureaucracy and administrative headaches. His world has narrowed to eliminating dust and vibrations. There’s no room for building new gadgets.”

Rene has said that ASML has been driven by three characters with the charisma and insight of Steve Jobs: Gjalt Smit, Peter Grassmann and Martin van den Brink, the current president and CTO of ASML. These characters are not your normal dull engineers: take Gjalt Smit, who is introduced as an “airplane builder, cosmopolitan, lover of espresso and Italian cuisine”. Like many early technology pioneers, he doesn’t lack self-confidence nor a healthy disrespect for rules. The stories about him include how he used the Philips logo in job adverts without authorisation to build credibility for ASML and bravely demanded $100M from the board in 1984, despite a recession in the Netherlands at the time. To put this into perspective, the average NFL salary was just $160,000 (and that was after increasing around 50% over the previous two years). Today the average NFL player is earning 15 times as much!

Rene says that the book has taken seven years to write and is based on more than 300 hours of interviews, givng an indication of the detail within the book. Despite being a long read, the book is incredibly entertaining, and we’d strongly recommend it as a Christmas present: not just to geeks, but anyone who is interested in technology and loves a good story.

You can pre-order ASML’s Architects today on the TechWatch website.