Marvin, the Robotic Quarterback

I used to be an intern at Intel. I made web pages and built workstations.

I didn't get to go in the fab very often, which is best. If you've seen the ads with the factory workers in the multi-colored bunny suits dancing around, the fab may seem like fun.

It's actually really, really hot in one of those suits. And you can have whatever color you'd like, as long as it's white.

The cool part is you get to feel like an astronaut. You can wear a full mask with an oxygen pack. And if you're like me, you breath like Darth Vader and say, "Houston, we have a problem."

I had a very important job inside the fab. I had a clipboard of green stickers that said "Year 2000 Capable". I went through each section of the fab and put the stickers on equipment that had passed the Y2K rollover test. This was nearly every piece of equipment in the fab (minus that one boxy-looking one in the corner that made the ominous humming sound).

Since everyone was dressed the same, nobody could tell I was but a lowly intern. What they could see was my clipboard. This meant I could be an auditor - or worse, management. I would head over to a group of fellow astronauts to ask a question, and they would disperse before I got there.

Once I went into a suddenly empty wafer transfer room (it's probably not called that, but since I don't really know much about the equipment, I get to make stuff up and you probably don't know the difference).

I was putting stickers on the various machines, minding my own business, when I heard it.

*clink, rattle rattle*

I looked up, confused.

*clink, rattle rattle*

I turned around.

*clink, rattle rattle*

There were several microchip wafers on the floor. Even as an ignorant sticker intern, I doubted the floor was in integral part of our production line.

*clink, rattle rattle*

I followed the arc of the next wafer to see where it was coming from. One of the big expensive machines (let's call him Marvin) had a robotic arm that passed the wafer off to the robotic arm of the next big expensive machine. Marvin decided hand-offs were boring and he'd like to try touchdown passes instead.

For lack of a better plan, I started catching them. This worked fine for a minute for so, but then my hands were full.

*clink, rattle rattle*

I wandered down a corridor, trying to find someone older and more responsible. All the responsible-looking folks were hurrying away from me. I started hollering and waving, bunches of wafers stacked in my hands.

Once they found out I was a high school kid and not an auditor, I quickly became a suspect. It took considerable amounts of explaining and convincing to the higher-ups that I hadn't fiddled with anything.

At least Marvin was Y2K compliant.

Have you ever gotten in way over your head on the job?