Stuck at home during the lockdown, you’ve spent a lot of time on your phone.
With schools closed and kids learning in the living room, you might have used it to buy more devices.
You might have also upgraded the TV, with all the time they were streaming in the evening.
At least they have these wireless headphones, without them you couldn’t hear yourself thinking.
This new refrigerator was well worth it, considering how much traffic it sees.
The same goes for the smart kettle that replaced the old steamer when it finally gave in.
With stores closed more than they were open, you’ve lost count of the number of home deliveries.
There is another one that is expected shortly, according to this ping from your new watch.
Thank goodness one of the first lockdown purchases was this smart doorbell that lets you see who’s coming.
The only thing that hasn’t been replaced is the car on the outside.
No real surprise, given how little body roll last year, but when it goes, wouldn’t it be nice if the new one was electric …
This view of home digital consumption isn’t one that everyone will recognize, but it’s common enough to have emphasized the one thing each of these products have in common: chips.
These tiny components made of conductive material, usually silicon, carry the microscopic processors that keep our digitized and connected world in motion.
They’re in almost everything from the device you’re reading this article on to the satellites that helped the delivery guy find your home.
But in recent months, a global chip or semiconductor shortage means we may not be able to rely on the products we buy with such certainty.
In many industries, from electronics to automobiles, there is a rush to secure finite supplies of the most crucial component of modern manufacturing, and shortages are already starting to be felt.
This week, BMW-Mini became the latest automaker to be affected, announcing a production halt in Cowley, Oxford.
So far, the only UK car plant that has continued to operate throughout the pandemic, it follows Jaguar-Land Rover, which has interrupted production in two of its factories.
Modern vehicles have multiple chips to control everything from engine management to automatic windshield wipers, giving this tiny part the power to shut down giant production lines.
Their importance will only increase as we move to electric vehicles which require up to three times more than internal combustion engine models.
Ford in the United States has predicted that the chip shortage will cut vehicle production by 50% by June, costing it 1.1 million vehicles and $ 2.5 billion.
In UK, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders claims industry recovery from pandemic will be embarrassed through the struggle to manage the “global semiconductor shortage”.
Even the world’s most valuable business is not immune.
Apple’s success hinges on sales of its hardware, smartphones and tablets that rely on chips, and chief executive Tim Cook has warned that production of some of its products could be affected.
Announcement of a 54% increase in sales in its latest results the company said it had relied on using its semiconductor buffer stock to meet demand, and projected iPad and Mac sales would be $ 3 billion – $ 4 billion less in the third quarter than would be the case without supply issues.
Mr Cook said the company was competing with other industries not for breakthrough chips that give Apple an edge, but for older ‘legacy node’ technology used to manage battery life. and other parts of the phone.
“Most of our problem is with the licensing of these legacy nodes, there are many different people not only in the same industry but in other industries using legacy nodes,” he said. .
The flea problem has also been a factor in the supply shortages of the new xbox and PlayStation game consoles and, like every other industry, there’s unlikely to be a quick fix.
Chip Design is a US-led global business in which the UK has been predominant, largely through Arm Holdings, founded in Cambridge but currently owned by Soft Bank of Japan and in the selling process to the American Nvidia.
However, for production the world is heavily dependent on Taiwan and South Korea, both of which have long production lead times and enjoy fierce competition for capacity.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is the industry giant, followed by Samsung in South Korea, and they and all the other manufacturers have been inundated with a variety of issues.
It is not just the demand for electronic interlocking that has constrained supply.
The contraction in auto production was followed by a faster-than-expected recovery, catching up with producers.
Natural forces and geopolitics have also played their part.
The tension and trade sanctions between China and the United States, including pressure on Huawei, have caused demand from China to spike.
The weather has also played its part.
Chip production uses large volumes of water, and drought conditions in Taiwan hampered production, as did the February frost in Texas, causing blackouts that hampered production at semiconductor factories, including one managed by Samsung, until March.
Meanwhile, an explosion at a Renesas Electronics plant in Japan in February also exposed the vulnerability of pressurized supply chains to isolated events.
For consumers, the impact at the moment can be an irritating delay for items you might be without.
But now we have bullets with everything, this list is dwindling by the day and ultimately we might be the ones paying.