Friday, February 22, 2013

Integrated Circuits, City Planning and Book Printing

CC Image courtesy of james4765 on Flickr.

Modern integrated circuits, when examined under a microscope, look like the plan of a large, futuristic metropolis. The analogy with architectural design or city planning is appropriate when describing chip design and layout. Chips manage the flow of power, signals and heat just as cities handle the flow of people, goods, and energy. A more illuminating analogy is with printing, especially printing by photographic methods. Modern integrated circuits are inexpensive for the same reason that a paperback book is inexpensive--the material is cheap and they can be mass produced. They store a lot of information in a small volume just as microfilm does. Historically, the relationship between printing, photography and microelectronics has been a close one.
Paul Ceruzzi, A History of Modern Computing

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