SPIE Microlithography Conference, Day 2 (Tuesday night)

Before the last paper of the day is even over, one of the oldest and most anticipated traditions of the conference begins – the hospitality suite.
Flash back to 1987. Before Monsanto began genetically modifying your food they began an even more quixotic quest to build a better photoresist. The soon-to-be-spun-out group Aspect Systems made their debut at the 1987 SPIE lithography conference – and what a debut it was. Four or five of the best resist papers ever given poured from the Aspect chemists. It was a shock and awe campaign of science, and it had its intended effect. But the buzz didn’t end at the end of the technical papers that day. While the attendees were still debating the finer points of polyphotolysis, The Aspect Systems hospitality suite began. Little food with little plates – the good stuff too, not just cheese and fruit. Everyone was welcome and everyone who came in got a bottle of Aspect wine. To a cheap engineer it was expense account Nirvana. The conference had never seen anything like it, but it soon would.
The bar had been raised, and it was quickly met and passed by the competition. Over the next several years the resist companies vied for the most over-the-top party. Steel drum bands. Virtual reality games. Caviar on a company logo ice sculpture. An original Star Trek cast member drunk and signing autographs. Tuesday night was always the peak night for the finger food orgies. And this year was no exception. While some of the craziest parties have mellowed, they are still a conference favorite. I went to several, but the one I liked best was from a stepper company who, after celebrating a successful year of immersion tool introductions had the less-than-tasteful idea of using a New Orleans theme for the party. I think the irony was completely lost on the vast majority of hungry and thirsty engineers.
What ever happened to Aspect Systems? They ran out of venture funding options after the stock market crash of 1989, ran out of cash, and sold the company to Shipley (which later sold itself to Rohm and Haas). Most of the original researchers are still making photoresist better.

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