Integrated Circuit Technologies

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The development of the integrated circuit paved the way for the computers we know today.

Integrated Circuits

Combining several transistors and the resistors needed to connect them on a single semiconductor chip in an integrated circuit was a tremendous technical advance. In 1958, Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments made several components on a single-piece semiconductor. By 1961, Fairchild and Texas Instruments were mass-producing integrated circuits on a single chip. In 1967, Fairchild introduced the Micromosaic, which contained a few hundred transistors. The transistors could be connected into specific circuits for an application using computer-aided design. The Micromosaic was an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC).

Tips: Now usually called just a chip, the first integrated circuit was fabricated in 1958 by Texas Instruments inventor Jack Kilby.

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Figure: An integrated circuit.

Early RAM and Processor Circuits

In 1970, Fairchild introduced the first 256-bit static RAM chip, while Intel®announced the first 1,024-bit dynamic RAM. Computers that could make use of this memory were still monsters to maintain. Handheld calculators, on the other hand, appealed to everyone from scientists to school kids. Marcian “Ted” Hoff at Intel designed a general-purpose integrated circuit that could be used in calculators, as well as other devices. Using ideas from this circuit, Intel introduced, in 1972, the 8008, which contained approximately 3,300 transistors and was the first microprocessor to be supported by a high-level language compiler called PL/M.

General-Purpose Microprocessors

A major breakthrough occurred in 1974 when Intel presented the 8080, the first general- purpose microprocessor. The 8080 microprocessor had a single chip that contained an entire programmable computing device on it. The 8080 was an 8-bit device that contained around 4,500 transistors and could perform 200,000 operations per second. Other companies besides Intel designed and produced microprocessors in the mid-1970s, including Motorola (6800), Rockwell (6502), and Zilog (Z80). As more chips appeared and the prices dropped, personal desktop computers became a possibility.

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