How big a threat is electrostatic discharge ESD to typical integrated circuits, really?
OPINIONS VERSUS EXPERIENCE
I am not especially looking for opinions (indeed, uninformed opinions on this topic are easy to find), but for quantifiable or quasiquantifiable experience of the actual destruction of hardware. (For example, if you work in an electronics assembly plant and are familiar with the quantity of hardware that gets thrown in the plant's trash bin due to ESD events, then you have legitimate, quasiquantifiable experience; but if you have merely read the plethora of service manuals that warn against ESD, then you might have no more than an opinion.)
I ask because (a) I hold a master's degree in electrical engineering, (b) the focus of my master's study was in electromagnetics, (c) I do not however work professionally in the fields of electromagnetics or electronics, (d) I have not always been very careful while disassembling electronics at home, and (e) except due to lightning, I have never once witnessed the destruction of electronics by ESD. I have repeatedly, unfortunately witnessed the destruction of electronics by inadvertent connection under power to wrong impedances, but never by ESD.
I am 49 years old and, perhaps like you, have been disassembling electronics at home since I was 13. I am not always careless (it depends on the value of the electronics I am handling, how much time I have, etc.) and I do own an ESD wrist strap, but I have been careless enough without apparent consequence for so many years that I begin to notice that my own experience seems to contradict the conventional warnings. What's going on?
Some of the warnings recently say that ESD "degrades" electronics. But does it, really? Quantifiably, how much?
Also, I ask because I instruct engineering courses part-time at a state college, the E.E. undergraduates there all have FPGA prototype boards, and some of the undergraduates just toss the boards in their backpacks. I have yet to hear one of these undergraduates mourning the loss of his or her FPGA to ESD—though, admittedly, I have not myself taught any of the courses in which the FPGAs are used.
So, is there any quantifiable or quasiquantifiable experience of this? Or is ESD not quantifiably much of a threat, despite all the (suspiciously bossy, suspiciously nondetailed) warnings the service manuals convey?
See also this answer.