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Integrated Circuits


During the industrial revolution, humankind made enormous advances in production with the use of mechanical means such as steam and gas-powered motors, which we can think of as an amplification of human muscle. The digital revolution, or information revolution, has made possible the amplification of the human brain. This amplification has created a kind of symbiotic relationship between humans and computers that have permitted more efficient control of the mechanics of the industrial revolution like the joining of hydraulics with information technology for the creation of robotics.


A microchip is an example of an integrated circuit. This is called a DIP or dual inline package. On the Arduino UNO, an Atmega 328 is standard.

This is the BS2 and it is surface mount parts soldered onto a DIP package. The black chip to the right is the PIC16C57 which is the brains of the Basic Stamp 2


However, more important, integrated circuits have created an attendant increase in the quantity and ease with which information is now available for all; with the deployment of microcomputers and the Internet.

Just think, the first computer, the ENIAC (electronic numerical integrator and computer), filled a whole room with tubes and could do a variety of general purpose computing though was designed to calculate artillery firing tables.  Today, with the fast microcomputers we can calculate these trajectories in the background while printing out our papers and generating fractal patterns simultaneously, in the multitasking environments of faster and smaller integrated circuits.


Eniac Computer


In the manufacture of microchips, there is a law called Moore’s law that states that every 18 months we functionally double the number of transistors on a microchip. Gordon Moore made this prediction in 1964, only six years after the invention of the microchip.

Later, Moore went on to co found the Intel Corporation. Because the doubling of the transistors is not accompanied by an increase in cost, we have seen chip prices falling steadily. In 1985, a dedicated word processor system sold for $12,000. Today you could purchase a dedicated word processing for $200, or get a complete desktop system that can run a myriad of software at once for $500. Think a single transistor was $1 in 1968 and today you can purchase roughly 50 million transistors for $1

Today processor like the Intel Core Duo have approximately 291 million transistors or more transistors on a single chip and ICs with 500 million are in development. Research into new vertical architectures may change this, as well the ability of silicon to handle the heat of the electron transfer, which can commonly be at 200° F. New diamond substrates are now being researched that would allow faster chips since normal silicon can only handle a certain amount of heat. [9] Most recently Intel introduced a new architecture with 14 nm widths called the Broadwell and the 15 Core Xeon Ivy Bridge-EX has 4.3 billion transistors with traces that are 22nm.

Darpa SyNAPSE is a 16 Chip Board that has 5.4 Billion chips.

Darpa SyNAPSE 2014

At the current pace, microchips will have many billions of transistors in the not-too-distant future and Gordon Moore;s prediction continues to expand with new vertical architectures.
Transistor counts from Wikipedia.