NATS 1700 Lecture Notes - Busicom, Socalled, Computer Hardware

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Published on 13 Oct 2012
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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.
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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).
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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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Document Summary

Informal and unedited notes, not for distribution. (c) z. stachniak, 2011. Note: in cases i were unable to nd the primary source of an image or determine whether or not an image is copyrighted, i have speci ed the source as unknown . I will provide full information about images and/or obtain reproduction rights when such information is available to me. 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. A smart phone"s circuit board with integrated circuits. In fact, what we see are not circuits themselves as they are packaged in plastic or ceramic, mostly non-transparent enclosures. Integrated circuits are small and use little energy; but they can implement electronic circuits of immense complexities.

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