Boat versus Cassette

Subject: Boat versus Cassette
From: Scott Cluff <SCLUFF -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 1995 15:18:03 MDT

This posting is a bit long, but I feel that in order for you to help me, you
need to know the whole story.

The Basic Question

As a writer writing in-house procedures, what do you do when your readers
have, over time, gotten used to referring to two things incorrectly, calling
Thing One by Thing Two's name and, conversely, calling Thing Two by Thing
One's name?

The Whole Story

I work in the semiconductor industry. To help you understand our problem,
I have to explain that semiconductors (computer chips) start out as silicon
wafers (usually 6 or 8 inches in diameter). One of the goals in building
computer chips is to build as many chips as possible on a single wafer. The
process of turning a silicon wafer into computer chips is a long and involved,
often taking over a month and requiring the wafer to be run through hundreds
of steps and processes.

As wafers progress through fabrication, they are moved around in carriers
called "cassettes." These cassettes are usually made of plastic or Teflon,
each cassette holding 25 wafers. The purpose of the cassette is to hold the
wafers upright and keep them from touching each other. Basically, the
cassette is a slotted box that has no top on it. Wafers are placed upright
in the cassette, one wafer in each slot. Most of the equipment used to build
computer chips is designed around these cassettes so that a cassette of wafers
can be placed in or on the machine. The machine then takes the wafers
out of the cassette and puts them back again when processing is complete.
Here's a rough idea of what a cassette "looks" like.

|| *************** ||
|| ******************* ||
|| ********************** ||
|| ************************ ||
|| ************************ ||
|| ************************ ||
|| ********************** ||
|| ******************** ||
|| *************** ||
|| ************ ||
|| ||
End View of a Cassette (Notice that the wafer is facing you.)

At some steps though, wafers are run through furnace processes. Furnace
processes are extremely hot. Understandably, for hot processes, wafers
have to be taken out of the cassettes and place in quartz "boats." Quartz
boats are like cassettes in that they hold wafers upright so that they don't
touch each other, but are different from cassettes in that they have no
sides. Here's a rough idea of what a boat looks like:

\\ ************* //
|| ||
End View of a Boat (Notice that there are no sides on the boat and, again,
that the wafer is facing you.)

When our company first started, in the late '70s, the operators somehow learned
to use these terms incorrectly. And, being a small company, it was the
operators themselves who documented the procedures they performed. As the
company grew, the new operators also learned to use the terms incorrectly, and
all the new documentation reflected the incorrect use. Then, about five years
ago, our company started hiring professional technical writers. The writers,
realizing what was going on, began changing the documentation to reflect
correct usage of the terms. As evidence of the need to change, the writers
argued that not only does the rest of the semiconductor world use the terms
differently than we do, but a look at the etymology of the word "cassette"
clearly shows that a "cassette" is a "small case", not a thing having no

However, try as they might, the writers have been unable to get the correct
usage to catch on companywide. Some areas of the company have indeed tried to
switch over, but because some areas still do not have writers, the problem is
still widespread. About once a year, someone brings the problem up again and
the writers go to battle, some in favor of changing, some against it. I should
explain that we do not have a writing group; each writer works for an
engineering group, and so the writers are very independent.

This past year, though, the Document Control group has taken an active role in
standardizing the efforts of the writers. We wrote a style guide and are
making great effort to work together to standardize our in-house documentation.
So, we have to decide what to do about the "boat" versus "cassette" thing.
Some of our writers argue that using the wrong terms is not only bad because
it makes our documentation inaccurate and confusing when compared with vendor
manuals, they feel that doing do makes us look bad--something akin to a baseball
player calling the bat a club. Other of our writers, though, feel that if the
operators want to say "boat" for "cassette" that we should let them. The
operators seem indifferent; they go with the "street rules"; they'll use the
terms everyone else uses.

I would greatly apprecieate your repsonse on this issue. What do you
recommend? Should we continue to try and and change the masses or should
we give in to them?

Scott Cluff scluff -at- vax -dot- micron -dot- com
Developmental Editor
Micron Semiconductor
Boise, Idaho

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