Reference STATE OF THE ART Stan Augarten

ISBN 0-89919-195-9

Photo of
Putting the Planar Process to Good Use
The First Planar IC


By now there were two completely different ways to make ICs: one based on Kilby's methods; the other on the planar process developed by Hoerni and Noyce of Fairchild. Although Kilby's work was well received by the electronics industry, his ICs suffered from recurrent problems: optimizing certain parts, like resistors, was impossible for various technical reasons; wiring the constituents together was expensive and difficult; and contamination was still a threat. The planar process resolved every one of these dilemmas and rapidly became the one and only way to make ICs; even Texas Instruments (TI) was forced to adopt Hoerni and Noyce's techniques.

  Now that it had a convenient method of manufacturing ICs, Fairchild quickly went to work on its first line of commercial chips, a family of logic chips called resistor-transistor logic (RTL). Logic ICs are the Boolean decision-makers of computers and other electronic devices and were formerly made of discretes wired together on circuit boards. RTL is only one of many different types of logic circuits and consists of transistors and resistors arrayed to carry out NOT-OR and NOT-AND functions. RTL is now obsolete, having been replace by other logic circuit that perform these functions more efficiently.

  Fairchild's first logic chips were announced in March, 1961 and were bought by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as by numerous commercial firms. TI's versions appeared at about the same time and ended up with the U.S. Air Force and in the Minuteman Missile. Although only a few thousand chips were sold by TI and Fairchild in 1962, that year marked the beginning of mass production of ICs.

Resembling a primitive organism, the IC is one of the most basic of all chips - a "flip-flop," so-called because the introduction of a suitable pulse makes the chip "flip" into one electrical state until another pulse causes it to "flop" back to its original condition. Computers use flip-flops as counters. The chip has four bipolar transistors (the bright blue nose-cone-like features toward the center of the photo) and five resistors (the bright blue horizontal and vertical bars). The white bars are aluminum connectors, normally attached to the external world by wires (not shown here) soldered to the pads at the edge of the device. The irregular black specks are imperfections in the chip's surface. Actual size: 0.06 inches in diameter. Photo of


©Copyright Stan Augarten
This book is provided for general reference. The National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution make no claims as to the accuracy or completeness of this work.

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