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What is a Computer Chip?


Silicon Dominos – 2003

If you don’t work in the computer field, and even if do, you may not be that familiar with computer chips. These chips are more properly called integrated circuits, or IC’s. They are electronic devices that contain transistors and other components that are made of semiconductor materials, like silicon. These transistors are interconnected with polysilicon and aluminum wiring. But, the transistor, that’s the thing. Transistors are electronic switches that allow chip designers to create logical circuits that have arithmetic and decision making capabilities.

Chips can be very simple or very complicated. The very first chips contained a single transistor. The smartest and most complex chips, and probably the best known, are the microprocessors. Probably the most recognized of these is the Intel Pentium, which has about 55 million transistors on it!

The chip is perhaps 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 control the BMW 745.