Silicon Wafer - Computer Chip Art - Star Trek, USS Enterprise, Hitchcock, Microprocessor, Rockwell, 4 Inch



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About this Artwork

This artwork celebrates the tiny Chip Art that computer chip designers would sometimes place on chips. It includes a wafer, images of the chip, and closeups of the art found on the chip. Read more below for more detailed information.

About Making Computer Chips and Chip Art

Computer chips start out as ordinary sand, which is silicon dioxide. However, the silicon must be made very, very pure. The first step is to melt the sand, in a furnace that reaches about 3200F, to separate the silicon. The silicon is further purified in a process that creates 99.9999% pure silicon called polycrystalline silicon. The polysilicon is broken up into chunks. These chunks are melted in a crucible at about 2500F. A silicon crystal seed is dipped in molten silicon and slowly drawn out to create a cylinder of silicon. These silicon cylinders are some of the purest crystals on the planet. Once the silicon cylinder is grown to the desired diameter, it is sawed into wafers. These wafers are polished to achieve a very flat mirror surface. Transistors, and other microelectronic parts, are built on the polished wafer in layers in a process called etching. The wafer is then sawed into its individual chips. Each chip is mounted in an electronic package that serves to protect it and connect it to the outside world. It has been said that computer chips are the greatest value-added product in the world. We essentially take a pile of sand and change it into thousands of dollars worth of computer chips.

In the early days, chip-making companies gave their designers a fair amount of freedom in placing non-functional designs on the chips called Chip Art. Generally, chip dies are buried deep inside their packages, so no one would see these designs anyway, unless you’re a chip collector and start looking around. One of the most common things you will find is the initials of the chip designer. Also, you will find things like chip numbers, company logos, and dates. But, occasionally, you find something much more fun. Chip designers would sometimes do a little (I mean a few micrometers) artistic sketch of something near and dear to their hearts.

About this Artwork

This wafer was made by Rockwell International in 1987. The wafer is 4" in diameter. This wafer has about 83 Echo Cancelling computer chips on it. These chips were used in communications equipment to remove echoed or reflected signals. What makes this wafer special is the amount of Chip Art on it. The most recognizable Chip Art is of the Star Trek USS Enterprise with its phasers firing. The second Chip Art is the of Alfred Hitchcock. This image was taken from a silhouette of Hitchcock and Cary Grant on the set of the film Notorious. The Chip Art of the Echo with the international Not symbol refers to the function of the chip. The Chip Art of the little bug with the initials RHA are a bit of a mystery. I believe the bug is the Ceti Alpha V Eel from the Wrath of Kahn, but I haven’t been able to attribute the RHA initials. Alongside the Rockwell International logo, is an extended list of the people involved with the production of the chip. It lists first initial and last name, not just initials. The list is done in the style of Movie or TV show credits, like Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The last credit refers to the Leave to Beaver TV show. The theme for all of the Chip Art seems to be 1960 TV shows and movies. All of the Chip Art is visible to the naked eye on the large image in the center of the display. See if you can find them all (the bug shows up twice).


    The artwork is 9"x20" in a black shadow box frame, with glass. All framing materials are acid-free. A narrative about the artwork that includes the artist’s signature is placed on the back of the artwork.

    Please note:  The look of the artifacts in the artworks may vary, each piece is unique.