How Supply Chain Upheaval Became Life-or-Death Threat…

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For much of this year, Joseph Norwood’s next breath was locked in a zero-sum competition with people eager to upgrade their iPhones.

Mr. Norwood has sleep apnea, meaning that he frequently stops breathing while sleeping.

A device known as a CPAP — or continuous positive airway pressure machine — can pump air into his body through a face mask while he sleeps, greatly reducing his risk of sudden death.

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But such machines require computer chips, a component that is in critically short supply amid the Great Supply Chain Disruption. Mr. Norwood waited more than six agonizing months before he received his device.

“It felt like forever,” he said. “I haven’t been working. I haven’t been doing much of anything.”

Around the world, many of the largest industries are jockeying to secure scarce stocks of computer chips. Automakers have slashed production for a lack of chips, threatening jobs from Japan to Germany to the United States. Apple has cut back on making iPads. Retailers have prepared for a holiday shopping season pockmarked by shortages of must-have electronics.

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