1987 / 6月
Jack Chang /tr. by Phil Newell
Since 1959, integrated circuits (IC's) have replaced transistors in most electronic products, and their importance increases daily.
Integrated circuits provide the key part for controlling a wide variety of electronic functions, including memory, calculation, and logic. From watches and televisions to automobiles and medical equipment, there is no product that can't use them.
Although there are incredible amounts of electronic devices (such as resistors, etc.) stuffed into each silicon chip, yet they are small enough to have been described as smaller than an infant's fingernail.
In order to stuff tens of thousands of devices onto each silicon chip, it is necessary to make them so small that one must use "microns" (one micron being equivalent to one ten-thousandth of a centimeter) as the unit of measure. The more fine the circuits, the larger will be the number of devices which can be fit on the chip, thus lowering the cost of production and raising the value added.
The evolution of the IC can be divided into three stages. When the number of devices was below 1,000, they were called simply "integrated circuits." When the number of devices increased to between 1,000 and 100,000, this was called "Large Scale Integration" (LSI); and when the number of devices became still larger, this was called "Very Large Scale Integration" (VLSI). The difference between these types is determined only by differences in the number of devices and has nothing to do with the actual physical size of the chip.
If divided by function, there are two main types of IC: the linear and the digital. The linear IC is used in televisions, telephones, and other products used in the home. It can receive and enlarge continuous waves which represent sounds or images.
The digital IC serves as the real "brain" in a computer. Its most important role is to control the microprocessor, which has the functions of memory, calculation and logic, and it manages the "memory chip" used for storing data.
The memory chip and the special-use integrated circuit are two important factors in every country's development. Because of the versatility of memory chips, the demand for them is strong, so that each country strives to get into that market. The result is that the competition is very intense, and many producers just fall by the wayside.
To draw a comparison, if we say that memory chips are similar to "ready-made clothes," then special-use integrated circuits are "tailor-made clothes." Although the demand for them is small, the risk of producing them is not so great. In order to avoid the intense competition of the "ready-made" industry, the ROC is taking the first steps toward developing a safe and secure niche in the world of the "tailor-made."