Did you know that the silicon chip used in electronics today is actually a re-purposed military component? Even though it was originally created for a completely different purpose, this component has now found its way into many modern electronics. In this article, we’ll explore the history of the silicon chip, from its origins in the military to its modern use in electronics.
The Invention of the Silicon Chip
The silicon chip is actually a military invention, created to solve a specific problem. In World War II, the Allies encountered a major problem in their efforts to keep German communications secret from the Axis Powers. Basically, the Allies were intercepting all of the German wireless transmissions and were able to decipher and understand most of them. However, the Allies were having trouble reading the encrypted, or “clear”, German messages. The reason for this, as you might have guessed, is that the Germans were using a sophisticated encryption system.
The Allies tried a number of different approaches to breaking the German encryption, but they were all ultimately unsuccessful. As the war dragged on, the Allied focus on cracking the German codes shifted more and more to the effort to build a machine that could “decipher” the German messages.
The Early History of the Silicon Chip
The story of the silicon chip begins in the early 1900s, when researchers in Germany, the U.S., and elsewhere began to experiment with semiconductors. These researchers were trying to design a more efficient electrical conductor than the metals used in wire at the time. In 1907, a German physicist named Wilhelm Schallmayer filed a patent for what he called a “new electrical conductor”. He called this new conductor “silicon”, and the name stuck.
Over the next 10 years or so, various researchers and scientists began to experiment with using silicon to build electrical components and devices. However, it was a German engineer named Robert Assor who is credited with inventing the first silicon chip. In 1915, Assor received a patent for a “new and improved method of manufacturing semiconductor devices”. This first silicon chip is often considered to be the size of a postage stamp, though it is important to note that the components on the early silicon chips were smaller.
The Digital Revolution and the Silicon Chip
The silicon chip found its way into electronic devices during World War II, when the German military started using them in the design of radio tubes. These radio tubes were used to transmit and receive radio signals. Silicon was less expensive and more plentiful than germanium, which was used in the prior generation of tubes, so the German military started using more silicon in its tubes.
After the war, the Allied forces captured a number of German scientific documents that explained the properties of silicon and how it could be used in electronic components. This knowledge led to a huge increase in the production of silicon components for electronic devices.
The Silicon Chip in Production Today
The modern silicon chip can range in size from a few square inches to as large as a room. The most common type of silicon chip in production today is a small circuit board with integrated circuits (ICs). These ICs are the fundamental building blocks of modern electronics. They perform a huge range of functions, including acting as switches, amplifiers, and memory storage devices.
There are many types of integrated circuits (ICs), but the most common ones are listed below.
Transistors - These are the switches on the silicon chip, allowing it to conduct electricity.
Diodes - These are the “active components” that allow the transistor to turn the electricity on and off.
Resistors - These allow you to adjust the flow of electricity.
Capacitors - These store electricity and release it back into the circuit when needed.
Inductors - These slow down the speed of electronic signals passing through them.
Where the Silicon Chip is Going?
Looking into the future, we can see that the silicon chip is only going to become more important in the electronics industry. The cost of chips is continuing to drop, and the number of functions that can be packed onto a single chip is increasing. What’s more, the number of functions that can be accomplished with a single chip is steadily increasing.
How Powerful is a Silicon Chip?
A Silicon Chip with integrated circuits is certainly more powerful than one without. For example, a single silicon chip with integrated circuits can match the power handling capability of a high-end power supply. In fact, a single silicon chip can usually handle more power than several traditional power supplies can provide.
The silicon chip has played a major role in the development of modern electronics. It was originally developed for a completely different purpose, but its re-purposed military components have made it an important part of many modern electronics devices.
The invention of the silicon chip was an important step forward in the field of electronics, and its continued use will only increase with time.