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What is a silicon chip?

Find out what a silicon chip is.

Silicon chips like this one are used in more products than just computers. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Silicon chips like this one are used in more products than just computers.

A silicon chip is an almost pure piece of silicon, usually less than one centimeter square and about half a millimeter thick. It contains hundreds of thousands of microminiature electronic circuit components, mainly transistors, packed and interconnected in layers beneath the surface. These components can perform control, logic, and/or memory functions. There is a grid of thin metallic strips on the surface of the chip; these wires are used for electrical connections to other devices. The silicon chip was developed independently by two researchers: Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments in 1958, and Robert Noyce (b. 1927) of Fairchild Semiconductor in 1959.

While silicon chips are essential to most computer operation today, a myriad of other devices depend on them as well, including calculators, microwave ovens, automobile diagnostic equipment, and VCRs.

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