A device that can control the human brain. They call it the brain of the computer but what exactly is it? You guessed it right; it is the Integrated Circuit (IC) or the (micro)- chip. How is it developed? How does it work? When was it invented and why? Who invented it? Is it flawless? An engineer of the 21st century must have answers to all these questions because it is everywhere around us. It has provided many solutions to problems that would otherwise be unsolvable. It can solve problems faster even than humans can even though the humans are the ones who made it. Some scientists and engineers even belief that sooner than later the microchip will be smarter than its inventors will.
Evolution of ICs
Tubes vs. Transistors
Just like the evolution of man, ICs evolved. The only difference is that man became straight in posture and the ICs became smaller. Before the invention of transistors, which is the main component in the manufacture of ICs, computers used the vacuum tubes. There was need to break away from vacuum tubes since they were highly unreliable and unnecessarilycolossal. In 1947, the tran- sistor was invented and was seen as a breakthrough in the digital world. However, because of its size the electrical engineers of 1950s found it challenging to make the integrated circuit using wires.
In 1958 Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments came up with a ground-breaking idea to solve the miniaturization problem. His idea was to develop a monolithic chip. Upon presenting the idea to his superiors, he was given the green-light to make a prototype which he did and it worked perfectly well. Half a year later, Robert Noyce, co- founder of Intel, designed his own integrated circuit that was implemented using a layer of thin metal as the final stratum of the monolith, which would be etched to form a circuit. This was the genesis of the commercialization of integrated circuits with Intel being the world's IC market leader to today.
The Tyranny of Transistors
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, 1965, predicted that the number of transistor used to manufacture microchip would double each year for at least 10 years. In 1960s, the ICs developed were the Small Scale Integrated Circuits (SSI) with about 3-30 transistors but today we are talking of the Ultra Large Scale Integrated Circuits (ULSIC) with over 1 billion transistors. The greater the number of transistors, the better the functionality of the IC. The invention of the IC spearheaded major scientific projects. It was only through this lightweight but super-device that Apollo program made it to the moon. Today, almost all electronic devices have IC(s) and just as Moore predicted, the number and the functionality of the ICs are increasing in crescendo. Scientists and engineers in San Francisco are currently working on a multi million-dollar project to develop chips that can listen to the brain and respond appropriately. Activa by Medtronics Core Company is one such device that is in its initial stages. NeuroPace had implanted such device to about 350 epileptic patients. The silicon-based device is designed to detect any symptoms of epileptic seizures and apply stimulus to prevent them. With such developments, the future of the ICs is mysterious but undoubtedly worthy.
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