In microchip design, as in life, small things sometimes add up to big things. Dream up a clever microcircuit, get it sculpted in a sliver of silicon, and your little creation may unleash a technological revolution. It happened with the Intel 8088 CPU. And the Mostek MK4096 4-kilobit DRAM. And the Texas Instruments TMS32010 digital signal processor.
In "25 Microchips That Shook the World," IEEE Spectrum offers a list of some of the most innovative, inspiring, and intriguing integrated circuits. The list includes chips that have become enduring objects of worship among the chiperati: the Signetics 555 timer, for example. Others, such as the Fairchild 741 operational amplifier, became textbook design examples. Some, like Microchip Technology's PIC microcontrollers, have sold billions, and are still doing so. A precious few, like Toshiba's flash memory, created whole new markets. And one, at least, became a geeky reference in popular culture. (Question: What processor powers Bender, the alcoholic, chain-smoking, morally reprehensible robot in "Futurama"? Answer: MOS Technology's 6502.)
For each chip, IEEE Spectrum described how it came about and why it was innovative, with comments from the engineers and executives who architected it. As a bonus, eminent technologists are asked about their favorite chips. Ever wonder which ICs have a special place in the hearts of Gordon Moore, Carver Mead, Morris Chang, Vinod Khosla, Jeff Hawkins, Steve Jurvetson, Sophie Vandebroek, Dave Ditzel, or Lee Felsenstein?
Additional online material related to the article includes 13 runner-up chips that didn't make the list and more favorite picks by other luminaries.
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