lecture7 - Lecture 7 The Microchip Informal and unedited...

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Lecture 7. The Microchip Informal and unedited notes, not for distribution. (c) Z. Stachniak, 2011. Note: in cases I were unable to find the primary source of an image or determine whether or not an image is copyrighted, I have specified the source as ”unknown”. I will provide full information about images and/or obtain reproduction rights when such information is available to me. Introduction Looking inside our desktop computers, laptops, and smartphones, following wires inside our cars, elevators, fridges, wrists watches, radios and audio equipment, searching through circuitry controlling ”smart” trains, airplanes, spacecraft, process control and test equipment, taking off covers of electronic equipment, we don’t see vacuum tubes any more. Instead, we see electronic boards populated with all sorts of tiny devices. Some of them are rectangu- larly shaped black blocks of plastic with numerous metal leads extending out of them and into the board. We call them integrated circuits . Fig. 1. A smart phone’s circuit board with integrated circuits. Source: unknown. In fact, what we see are not ”circuits” themselves as they are packaged in plastic or ceramic, mostly non-transparent enclosures. 1
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Integrated circuits are small and use little energy; but they can implement electronic circuits of immense complexities. That’s why large calculators could be turned into pocket-sized gadgets and large mainframe computers into small servers, desktops, and laptops. In this lecture we shall trace the development of an integrated circuit from an invention of the transistor to the microprocessor. We shall discuss the impact of these inventions on our society that was to get an unrestricted access to computing and information. What are integrated circuits? If we carefully strip an integrated circuit of its plastic shell, we shall see a small rectangular surface–the chip itself–with a number of metal leads con- nected to it. Fig. 2. Inside a chip. Source: The Chipmakers , Time-Life Books (1988). 2
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These leads are used to power the chip and to communicate with it. To unravel the secret of a chip, we must place the chip under a microscope. Under high magnification, a chip is a flat area covered with tiny electronic components interconnected with flat ribbon-like wires (or paths). The ma- jority of these electronic components are transistors – minuscule electronic switches, that play the same role as vacuum tubes or electromagnetic switches in early computers. The main advantages of transistors over other switches is that they can be made small, million of times smaller than vacuum tubes used to build the ENIAC. Fig. 3. The chip revealed: this chip contains thousands of transistors deposited on a tiny piece of silicon. Photograph by Ioan Sameli.
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