Silicon Wafer - The Making of Computer Chips, Featuring the Amiga Gary, 5719


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I enjoy making these Making Computer Chip artworks more than any other work. I bring one to every art show. I use it to explain how computer chips are made. The coolest thing about the artwork is that the computer chip background image is of chips on the completed silicon wafer in the artwork. For those people that are into the iconic Amiga personal computer, a bonus on this Making of Computer Chips is that the completed wafer contains the Amiga's Gary I/O chips.

The artwork describes the process of making chips, from sand to completed computing devices. On the back is a narrative describing the display, the chip-making process, and the artist’s signature. The artwork contains elements used in the making of silicon wafers, as well as, three 100mm silicon wafers (an unpolished, a polished, and a finished etched silicon wafer). the completed silicon wafer, contains CBM 5719 Amiga Gary I/O chips. The Commodore Semiconductor Group (CSG) produced this 4” wafer at its fabrication plant in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1986. CSG was a subsidiary of Commodore Business Machines, created by the purchase of MOS Technologies (creator of the 6502 microprocessor). It is fully completed and ready to be scored and diced into about 400 individual die, or "chips". There are also five standard test dies on the wafer (one in the center and the other four in an "X" pattern). The wafer is made using NMOS silicon gate technology. The background image of this artwork is of the Gary chips on the wafer.

Items 7-14 are computer chips that are intended to show the variety of packages that are used to house the actual chip. Designers select packages for their chips according to electrical, environmental and weight considerations. Of special note is the EPROM. Because of the need to expose the chip to ultraviolet light to erase its memory, the quartz window allows the chip inside to be seen. This EPROM is a Russian made clone of the Intel 2716 EPROM. Also of interest are a completed CBM 5719 Gary chip (item 7), an S3 Graphics, Inc. graphic processor, a Cyrix MII-300GP microprocessor, a Hitachi 6800 piggyback microprocessor (HD68P01), and Intel 1103 DRAM from an Intel Memory System.

About Making Computer Chips:

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 3200o F, and mix with carbon. This first purification process creates 99% pure Silicon, a common output is Silicon Carbide. The Silicon Carbide is processed in a trichlorosilane distillation method to create 99.9999% pure silicon called polycrystalline silicon. The polysilicon is broken up into chunks. These chunks are melted in a crucible at about 2500o F. 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.


The artwork is 11"x14" 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.