A list of some of the most innovative, intriguing, and inspiring integrated circuits. In microchip design, as in life, small things sometimes add up to big things. Dream up a clever microcircuit, get it sculpted in a sliver of silicon, and your little creation may unleash a technological revolution. It happened with the Intel 8088 microprocessor. And the Mostek MK4096 4-kilobit DRAM. And the Texas Instruments TMS32010 digital signal processor.
Among the many great chips that have emerged from fabs during the half-century reign of the integrated circuit, a small group stands out. Their designs proved so cutting-edge, so out of the box, so ahead of their time, that we are left groping for more technology clichés to describe them. Suffice it to say that they gave us the technology that made our brief, otherwise tedious existence in this universe worth living.
IEEE Spectrum has compiled this list of 25 ICs that they think deserve the best spot on the mantelpiece of the house that Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce built. Some have become enduring objects of worship among the chiperati: the Signetics 555 timer, for example. Others, such as the Fairchild 741 operational amplifier, became textbook design examples. Some, like Microchip Technology’s PIC microcontrollers, have sold billions, and are still doing so. A precious few, like Toshiba’s flash memory, created whole new markets.