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Integrated circuits

Microchips Single electronic components are normally soldered (connected by metal) on to a circuit board by their legs. Metal tracks on the board connect the components together. Circuits that require hundreds or thousands of components would be enormous. Modern circuits use integrated circuits, or microchips, in which microscopically small components and the connections between them are built into a wafer of semiconductor material, which is normally silicon. This is why integrated circuits are often called silicon chips, or simply chips for short. The first integrated circuit was built in 1959 in the USA by Texas Instruments. Since then the number of components that can be fitted on to a chip has increased rapidly.

Different types

There are thousands of different integrated circuits. Some, such as amplifier chips or timing chips, contain a few dozen components. Others, such as computer processors or memory chips, contain hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of components.

The first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, went on sale in 1971. It consisted of more than 2300 transistors. A typical microprocessor today may have 730 million transistors.

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