What is a Computer Chip?
|Before we talk about my art, ChipScapes, let’s talk about computer chips.Computer chips are electronic devices that make dumb things smart.To be more proper computer chips are called integrated circuits, or ICs, but I like to keep things causal so will keep talking about computer chips.These electronic devices contain transistors and other components that are made of semiconductor materials, like silicon.But, the transistor, that’s the thing.They allows us to make chips smart.Transistors are electronic switches that allow chip designers to create logic circuits that have arithmetic and decision making capabilities.
|I think the chip is the greatest invention of the 20th century because it has touched us in so many ways.The chip has provided the ability to make machines smart, or at least not so dumb. Today, almost every electronic machine has chips in it. Even cars have chips. For example, no less than 72 different chips controlled the BMW 745. Chips can be very simple or very complicated. In 1960, the very first chips contained a single transistor. The smartest and most complex chips, and probably the best known, are the microprocessors. By 2000, Intel Pentiums had about 55 million transistors.Today’s microprocessors have over 30 billion transistors.
|Before we get too far, let’s spend a moment on terminology. We will look at three pictures of chips. Below is an electronic circuit board with many computer chips attached.There are many kinds of chips on the board. The gold and brown one in the distance is an Intel 8008 microprocessor, the first 8-bit microprocessor. The three closest chips are memory chips used to store the program that the 8008 would execute.
|Intel 8008 Microprocessor Mainboard
|The next two pictures are closeups of one of those memory type chips. Most people would say that the picture below is a picture of a computer chip. And, they would not be wrong, but not completely right either.However, to understand the artwork that I create, the nuances matter here.
|Intel C1702A EPROM Package
|In the next picture of the memory chip, the silver rectangle in the center is the real computer chip.All the rest of the “computer chip” is called the chip’s package. And it’s a pretty cool package too, made with real gold and porcelain. The best thing about this package is that it has a quartz window/cover so you can see the actual chip on the inside.
|Intel C1702A Chip Die
Once again to be more proper the chip inside is called a chip die. Most of the time the chip die is what’s important to me and my artwork. The purpose of the package is to protect the chip die and allow it to talk to other chips. The tiny gold interconnect wires attach to the chip and then to the leads that come out of the package. The package can be inserted into a circuit board to connect other chips to build more complex circuits. Calling either picture a computer chip is normal, even I do it, but just realize there is a greater truth here.