The death of Creative Technology founder Sim Wong Hoo is a reminder that Singapore was punching above its weight on the tech scene decades before tech became a buzzword. Creative, which was the first Singapore company to be listed on the Nasdaq, was famous for its Sound Blaster sound cards that were featured in desktop computers in the 1990s. By 1995, almost seven in 10 sound cards in PCs were reportedly Sound Blasters. Creative’s MP3 players were also a big hit.
As a backdrop, though, in the late 1980s and 1990s, Singapore was already a key manufacturing hub in the electronics space, with multinationals producing anything from a third to about a half of the world’s hard disk drives. The industry was expanding, ranging from home-grown contract manufacturers assembling electronic components to precision chip engineering and chip production, among various developments. In line with the expansion of the sector came the corresponding expansion and upgrading in the skills of the workforce.