Artifact Details


Tsao, Robert H. C. (Shin-Chen) oral history

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Robert Tsao was born in China in 1947, but his parents moved to Taiwan in 1948 and he grew up and built his career there. Mr. Tsao earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from National Taiwan University (NTU) and a Master’s degree in Management Science from National Chiao Tung University in 1972. He graduated from NTU as the Taiwanese government was laying the foundations of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry. Mr. Tsao was recruited to be the Vice Chairman of Electronics Research & Service Organization (ERSO) where he played a very key role from 1979 to 1981. He was instrumental in organizing the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) where he oversaw the development of Taiwan's first integrated circuit manufacturing line which became the basis for United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), a semiconductor contract manufacturer that produced chips based upon its customers’ designs.

UMC was founded as a small-scale chip manufacturing company in 1980, with its core technologies and processes licensed from RCA. The company began its transformation into a foundry in 1995 by establishing three separate joint-venture foundry companies. In 1998, UMC acquired a fourth Taiwanese foundry company and in 2000, completed the consolidation of the five joint-venture companies into a single foundry, under the UMC name.

UMC has consistently been recognized for innovative and strategic business practices such as its stock bonus plan. UMC was also the first semiconductor company to list on the Taiwan stock exchange, and in 2000, the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. UMC was also the first foreign company to acquire a Japanese semiconductor company in 1997.

In this oral history, Robert Tsao discusses 1)the formation and role of ITRI, 2) the RCA licensing agreement and its important role in the foundation of the semiconductor industry in Taiwan and 3) the evolution of UMC’s business model and practices over the years. He makes very explicit the connections between all three of those and the development of Taiwan’s powerhouse position in the global high tech industry by 2010.




Lin, Ling-Fei, Interviewer
National Science Council, Taiwan, R.O.C., Sponsor
Tsao, Robert H. C., Interviewee


Computer History Museum


28 p.; 44 p.



Copyright Holder

Computer History Museum




semiconductor history; Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI); Electronic Research & Service Organization (ERSO); RCA technology transfer project; United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC); Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC); daigong; Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor; bipolar; dialer IC; wafer foundry; Chang, Morris; Integrated device manufacturer (IDM); Li, K.T. (Kwoh-Ting); Mediatek; Novatek; Employee Stock Bonus System; stock options; design rules

Collection Title

Oral history collection

Series Title

Taiwanese Information Technology (IT) pioneers

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