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Amazing Integrated Circuits.

A true marvel of the past decade has been the way communications inventors, designers and technicians have used the building blocks of solid-state technology (see story, page 84) to develop integrated circuits which, in turn, have led to the miniaturization (see story, page 114) which has made possible the packaging of communications capabilities in compact, cost-effective devices.

It's been called the mighty midget, the electronic wonder, a miracle of modern American technology . . . perhaps the most significant accomplishment of scientific and engineering ingenuity to date. This phenomenon is the integrated circuit or more commonly know in the electronic industry as simply the "IC".

The integrated circuit is an enormous bundle of task-performing circuitry packed in a ridiculously small chip of mirror-like material called silicon . . . something so minute and light that it can be blown away in a moderate breeze. For size reference, an IC is about as small as a baby's fingernial.

An IC in simplest terms is a tiny electronic device which incorporates an amazing amount of electronic functional capability.

Ten years ago we were wide-eyed to see how a single IC could do the job of thousands of transistors. An early integrated circuit was the "calculator-on-a-chip" IC made by Texas Instruments for its own electronic calculators as well as those of other makers. This IC measuring less than a quarter of an inch square contains the equivalent of over 6000 transistors, and has all the electronics necessary for computing mathematical problems.

The handheld electronics calculator was one of the first examples of how ICs were introduced into a number of newer products for the consumer, for business and industry as well as for space exploration equipment. Early on we saw IC's revolutionizing not only calculators but also hearing aids, television sets, radios, automobiles, data-processing equipment, wristwatches, and, especially, small and large computers for industry, business, and space programs.

Invented by Jack Kilby of Texas Wnstruments in 1958, the integrated circuit belongs to the family of semiconductors that includes transistors and diodes. All are similar in size and in the way they're fabricated. Only, as the name implies, the integrated circuit has considerably more electronics functions integrated on practically the same small area as the transistor. Basically, an IC measures and controls the flow of electrical current, and this enables integrated circuits of various types to control the performance of all kinds of electronics equipment.

What propelled the IC to such popular heights is its size, weight, and performance. Inherent economies and reliability of the IC result from the ever increasing complexity of ICs, the new technologies applied to them which have had a tremendous impact on making them more reliable and less expensive, and extensive manufacturing experience gained over the last decade.

Mass production and extensive manufacturing experience has brought the price of ICs down considerably to the point where it's economically feasible for them to be used in a multitude of consumer products like color TV, radios, and automobiles.

The magic of the integrated circuit is in the way it's made. It undergoes a series of chemical processes, using successive photolithographic steps similar to the process of making printing plates and then subjected to high temperature diffusions . . . everything on a tightly controlled, microscopic scale.

The integrated circuit does not require too many more manufacturing steps than an individual transistor. The difference is that individual transistors must be handled independently . . . tested, packaged, shipped, placed in circuit boards, soldered, and so forth.

Donald Procknow, vice chairman and chief operating officer of AT&T technologies, sees a continuing bright future for integrated circuits, saying: "We see the capability of integrated circuits increasing for at least another ten years, especially among microprocessors and memories. New market opportunities will be created with each advance in technology.

IBM has developed an experimental computer chip that can store more than one million bits of information. The so-called dynamic random access memory chip is the first of its kind to be developed by a United States company, although several Japanese companies claim to have developed such chips but haven't marketed them. IBM officials say the chip was made on an existing manufacturing line, meaning that the company, if it decided to begin production, could start making the chip quickly.

A new 256K dynamic random access memory was recently introduced by Fujitsu Limited in Tokyo. It is said to be the fastest and smallest RAM produced, integrating 2.6 million bits onto a silicon chip measuring only 34.1 square microns, or 0.013299 of a square inch.

A new single-chip electronic telephone circuit, the MC34010, is a monolithic integrated circuit that is designed, using bipolar linear I.sup.2.L technology, to provide all basic telephone functions in a single IC, plus logic to interface with an external processor. The major sections of the circuit include a dual-one multi-frequency dialer (DTMF), tone ringer, speech network, a decline voltage regulator and MPU interface. The I.sup.2.L technology provides low voltages operation and high static discharge immunity. The DTMF dialer uses a frequency synthesis technique that allows use of a 500 kHz ceramic resonator. This generator uses a keyboard comprised of SPST switches in a X-Y configuration. Internal speech circuit muting eliminates the need for a common switch and it operates at a very a very low line voltage. The tone ringer from Motorola

Semiconductor Products of Phoenix, replaces a telephone bell with adjustable for two-frequency tone and generates a warbling square wave output drive to a piezo sound element. The tone ringer also satisfied EIA RS-470 impedance signature requirements. The speech network provides two to four wire conversion and adjustable sidetone replacing a bulky hybrid coil transformer. Its gain and frequency response is adjustable with external components. Peak limiter of the network extends the transmitter's dynamic range which provides a low distortion output. The receiver mute suppresses clicks arising from dailer on-off transitions as well as hook switch transactions.

Commercially available digital integrated circuits based on gallium arsenide (GaAs) technology have been developed. These circuits, manufactured by Harris Microwave Semiconductor of Milpitas, California, operate at five times the processing speed of the fastest silicon-based integrated circuits available today. According to Dr. Richard Soshea, vice president and general manager of Harris Microwave Semiconductor, "The market for GaAs digital integrated circuits is poised for explosive growth and the speed limitations of silicon in high-frequency communications equipment and very high-speed computer systems are now being reached."

University of Illinois researchers say they are close to developing an integrated optoelectronic chip which could advance computer and communications technology beyond the state of the silicon chip. Using an MOCVD reactor (MOCVD stands for metalorganic chemical vapor deposition, a processor of "growing" or depositing microscopically thin layers of semiconductor materials), U of I researchers are already producing a variety of semiconductor wafers.

Competition in the world chip market is expected of intensify with the introduction into the marketplace of the 256K chip. Although not yet even on the market, the 256K chip is expected to become the best selling product in the history of the semiconductor industry. According to published estimates by Dataquest, a San Jose, California, market research firm, worldwide sales of the 256K chip will hit $3.7 billion a year by 1989.

The most sophisticated microprocessors, now in their fourth generation, can process 32 bits of information at a time and, depending on the Job, can follow about 1 million instructions each second. By comparison, ENIAC, the world's first electronic digital computer, could perform only about 5,000 calculations per second and at a cost about 30,000 times higher!

Where is chip technology and integrated circuitry headed?

A recent report from Cunadata says: "Appropriately enough, the science of microelectronics is headed in so many different directions that you need a personal computer to track it. Some of the most promising developments, however, are focused on the creation of parallel processors . . . computers that are organized to do all steps simultaneously, rather than in sequence, for more efficient, operations.

"Meanwhile, researchers at AT&T Bell Laboratories, IBM, and elsewhere are working on refinement of electronic switches made of metals that lose all resistance to electric curent when chilled to near absolute zero. Chips with these switches can route singals so rapidly that machines could conceivably carry out 60 million instructions per second, 10 times as many as now possible with high-performance computers.

"Ultimately, some scientists have predicted, the race to cram more components on a chip may end in a test tube. Research is progressing on the production of molecule-size computer switches, synthesized as drugs are from inorganic chemicals."

Regardless of how future advancements in microelectronics are developed, they are sure to also produce fascinating new applications of computer chips. As Bernard Murphy, head of microprocessor design at AT&T Bell Laboratories, said recently, "The real integrated circuit revolution is still ahead."

And certainly the creation of integrated circuits which will give artificial intelligence to computers is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating future uses of chip technology.

Ultimately, we may have ultrafast chips containing a hundred million components. Such chips, perfectly suited to digital operation, would create an unprecedented potential for synergy between digital intelligence and digital information transmission.

By extrapolating current trends, we can foresee silicon chips a thousand times more complex and a thousand times faster than today's . . . meaning hardware with about ten thousand times more intelligence for the same real cost.

An interesting "sidebar" on integrated circuits comes from Washington where the House recently approved 388-D a measure which will give copyright protection to developers of masks for IC chips!

Developers of chip masks would have a ten-year exclusive on commercial use . . . and infringement could result in a penalty of up to $250,000.

Proponents of the legislation point out that while it sometimes costs $4 million to develop a chip mask, it can be duplicated by a competitor for as little as $50,000.

Looking to the future, Bell Labs President Ian Ross says: "Microelectronics is a technology that after more than two decades of remarkable progress is still advancing exponentially and promises to continue on this path for many years to come. For example, in most of the last 20 years we have doubled the number of components on a chip of silicon, and we're still doing so every year and a half. At the same time, the equivalent cost per transistor has become, 1,000-fold cheaper. Today at AT&T we are producing the 256K memory, a chip the size of your fingernail containing over a half-million components. And we are close to achieving the design of a manufacturable 'megabit chip' containing a million components.

"As a result of such progress we have reached the stage where the capability of a single-chip processor has surpassed that of a mainframe computer of 15 years ago and is now challenging that of today's minicomputer.

"What does the future hold for this remarkable technology? When might be only halfway to fulfilling its potential. I see the possibility of our reaching chips containing 100 million components per square centimeter of silicon, and perhaps by the turn of the century a billion components on a chip about the size of today's 20-cent postage stamp. I might add here that such a chip at the time may cost a lot less than the postage one might need to mail a letter in the year 2000 . . . if indeed we are still sending mail that way! The individual circuits in such chips, by the way, will operate at a switching speed of about 10 picoseconds, a picosecond being one-trillionth of a second."

Do we need such advanced technology?

"Yes," says Ian Ross, pointing out that "Any new charter for telecommunications that envisions our dealing with the future needs for data and video communications is expecting . . . no, demanding . . . that such microelectronic and photonic capabilities be developed."
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1984
Previous Article:Convergence of Voice and Data.
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