Espionage for which they do not ban (a story from the 80s)

    US companies, such as Google, followed the lead of the US government and began to break off relations with Huawei due to suspected espionage.

    In the 80s, American semiconductor manufacturers also had problems with foreign competing companies in connection with espionage.
    The game took place according to much milder rules and there was no discussion of any ban by industry participants.

    I wonder if the high-tech industry is degrading if it comes to the politicians ’lead?

    The reason for this note was the news that Google (and several other companies) is interrupting cooperation with Huawei, disconnecting their smartphones from Android updates and access to other services.

    This happened because the U.S. government previously accused Huawei of having their equipment used by Chinese hackers for espionage. (UPD: For more information about the facts, see the section “UPD1. After emotions. Facts” at the very end of the article)

    At the moment I am preparing several articles about the 80s, so in connection with the ban of Huawei I recalled the following story ...

    Japanese competition

    In the late 70s - early 80s, manufacturers of microelectronics from Silicon Valley arose a serious competitor in the form of a conglomerate of Japanese firms.

    Unlike the uncoordinated firms of the Valley, the Japanese acted together, and their actions were directed by the program of a special ministry - MITI (The Ministry of International Trade and Industry). The joint actions of the ministry and corporations have led to rapid growth in the field of microelectronics. So, by 1984, the Japanese had become leaders in terms of volume and quality of manufactured 64-kilobit (yes, then it was a lot!) RAM chips.

    This is what the 64K chip made specifically for Apple’s PCs looked like.

    Silicon Valley could counter Japanese centralized politics with its informal decentralized information exchange network. The circulation of information on the network was ensured by frequent contacts between developers of different companies among themselves, the relative frequency of their change of jobs and the possibility of creating new teams and startup companies.

    Japanese coherence could not give them what was at that time in abundance in Silicon Valley - the free flow of new ideas and people who were ready to implement them. To make up for the lack of their own ideas, the Japanese did not shy away from technological espionage.

    The story of espionage

    In mid-1982, two giant Japanese computer companies, Hitachi and Mitsubishi, and 18 of their employees were convicted of conspiracy to steal IBM's secrets, and in particular design documentation for the newest and most powerful IBM 3081K mainframe at that time. Hitachi and Mitsubishi were ready to pay up to $ 2 million for this information.

    This is how the IBM 3081K computer looked at the press release. The price is about 8 million dollars.
    The FBI arranged a special operation in Santa Clara (the very center of Silicon Valley), setting up a fake consulting firm Glenmar Associates, which offered to sell IBM secrets for Hitachi and Mitsubishi. In 1982, the FBI covered Japanese officials who came to Glenmar to collect confidential information from IBM.
    At first, the Japanese denied any involvement in this deal. But, during the trial, they nevertheless recognized her, “sanctions” were imposed on them: they were fined a small amount of 10 thousand dollars.

    One of the representatives of the Japanese computer industry in defense of Hitachi and Mitsubishi then indicated that they did only what most Silicon Valley firms do on a regular basis: looking for ways to be part of a network for exchanging technical information.

    Why then did the FBI intervene? Some modern commentators suggest that the main goal was not to stop, but to shame the Japanese, who were looking for such a straightforward way to get the information they needed - bribery. [Rogers84] Companies that are more sensitive to the life of the Valley, such as NEC, acted more gracefully by buying small companies in the Valley, which, in addition to their direct duties, also acted as the "eyes and ears" of the Japanese in the Valley.


    The problem of competition with Japan was very worrying about the high-tech business of the Valley. Thanks to her, a special association of manufacturers of microelectronics was created, lobbying the interests of precisely American manufacturers. The activities of this organization have brought some benefits, for example, in the form of reducing the tax burden.

    However, in the long run, the threat to Silicon Valley from Japan has passed for another reason. Competition in the field of microelectronics has remained, but the focus of entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley over the past 80 years has consistently shifted towards computers, networks, the Internet and so on.

    Robo dogs. They look impressive, but the sales figures are quite modest.
    Silicon Valley is still the main supplier of ideas, products and technologies. Japanese high-tech, as well as previously, actively supported at the state level, is not pleased with anything fundamentally new, except for (useless) robo-dogs.


    The story told is certainly not identical to the one that happened with Huawei. However, a few lessons can be learned.

    In the long run, the lack of government regulation has proven more productive than its presence.

    Modern networks for the exchange of technical information are not limited to the Valley. Everyone is included in the general information exchange. Therefore, firstly, everyone is spying with everyone, and any espionage is not a direct threat. And, secondly, no one can have neither responsibility nor authority as to what is happening in the networks (and what backdoors are there), whether you are Trump, C or who else.

    This or that backdoor can be everywhere

    Huawei is not accused of having stolen any technology, but of the fact that its equipment can contain (!) A code that Chinese hackers can use to facilitate their cyber attacks. Any manufacturer of equipment or software can be suspected of this, something similar to how anyone could have previously been suspected of technological espionage (and most likely turned out to be right one way or another - modern software is complicated enough to deliberately or unintentionally leave one or another backdoor, or even vulnerability easy for an experienced hacker).

    Punishment for a “bad game” is certainly necessary, for example, if a specially left “backdoor” is really found - real evidence and a trial can ruin the reputation of any player. However, the use of unfounded accusations by politicians as a reason for the ban greatly undermines confidence within the industry. If today you can blame one manufacturer, then tomorrow you can blame anyone.

    Some emotions

    The fact that Russian state officials may not understand these simple truths does not surprise me at all or even annoy me, and certainly does not prompt me to write an article no matter how stupid the idea of ​​a “sovereign Internet” would be. This is not surprising - people are used to living in a different, "shovel" world.

    Also, I am not very surprised by the fact that the current American president wants to build some kind of wall or impose some kind of sanctions.

    However, today's news that Google was led to all this hype will block Huawei devices, which are only suspected of having a hypothetical backdoor in their network equipment, guarded me.

    I would like to ask Google: Well, why are you being fooled by politicians and bureaucrats? Do you thereby destroy high-tech, its spirit, not measured by money and devices, for the sake of satisfying short-term market needs?

    And I want to ask a general question to readers. Does industry degenerate when it comes to politics? Is IT IT old, or has geopolitics changed so much that everything has “skewed”?

    UPD1. After the emotions. Facts

    Some dry facts that were found out after emotions subsided.

    Under normal circumstances, the US government can tightly control only public procurement. Contacts of ordinary companies such as Google are not controlled.
    But there is a special law Act of 1977 (International Emergency Economic Powers Act), which gives the president the authority to regulate the commercial activity of ordinary firms during the "emergency". So since 1977, the act has been applied about 30 times, introducing various sanctions, mandatory for all American companies. These sanctions are monitored by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
    Actually, on May 15, 2019, Trump introduced an “emergency” that allowed Huawei to be banned for all American companies. The official reason for the introduction of the "emergency", due to which it was possible to impose sanctions against Huawei, was "the fight against the threat from the use of telecommunications ...".

    The news went relatively unnoticed. All hype about the bath from Google was generated by a small article in Reuters on May 19, 2019.. In this material, almost without any official information and clarification. In it, an unnamed contact from Google says that “we obey the order and we will have to work with the consequences of [including Huawei on the sanctions list]” and “Huawei will be able to use only the public open source version of Android and will not be able to access proprietary applications and services from Google. "

    After this news, both in the western and domestic editions various articles began to appear. Many began to finish up and think out (like me on emotions), dispersing hype. There is not much official information (mostly answers from company press services in the style of "we will resolve the situation, do not worry").

    Indeed, the very same Google now can do little to do - the painfully harshly named act of 1977. Most likely, in the coming months, they and Huawei lawyers will come up with how to circumvent the bans without violating the laws and without straining the Ministry of Commerce.

    I naturally remove my claims to Google, the described parts of “A Little Emotion”. However, the general theme of hi-tech suffering from all kinds of trade wars, it seems to me, is relevant in any case.


    1. Rogers, EM, & Larsen, JK (1984). Silicon Valley fever: Growth of high-technology culture. New York: Basic Books.

    2. Huawei, sanctions and software: everything you need to know (Dec 2018), Guardian .

    3. The original Reuters article that spawned the entire hype idUSKCN1SP0NB

    4. Trump declares national emergency to protect US networks from foreign espionage @ Techcrunch

    PS I apologize in advance for the graffiti. The article was written on emotions. See a slip of the tongue or a slip of the pen - write in a personal :)

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