The first microchip was invented in 1974. Since that time, processing capabilities continue to increase at an exponential rate. Microchips are the brains of every electronic device in existence. From watches, to calculators, to satellites, to computers, these small chips account for the conveniences that make our lives so much easier. Microchips are integrated circuits that have been etched onto silicon chips, or wafers. The integrated circuits transfer electric currents, or signals, which are then converted into instructions by a receiving device. The silicon content of the chip, coupled with wires and transistor devices make for a highly conducive environment for transferring electricity.
There are a number of different ways to build a microchip. How it will be built depends on what the chip will be used for. In the case of a personal computer, the main ingredient for most chips is silicon. Silicon, a main ingredient in sand, is capable of either conducting electricity, or containing it, which is what makes it an ideal material as a chip. Other metals, like aluminium, copper and gold are added to enhance the chip's capability. Amazingly, these chips are 2 to 3 millimetres square and an inch thick. The actual circuit design is drawn onto the chip using ultraviolet light with a stencil, or mask, as a guide. Then wiring and transistor components are built onto the design. Complex integrated circuits can have multiple layers of built-in, interconnected components. The data storage and manipulation capabilities of microchips are done by these built-in transistor components. A simple chip can have as many as 3,000 transistors. The electric current is translated into usable data by sending the current through the circuit in a series of charges. The charges actually become the language needed to communicate with a receiving device. Boolean logic is the language used to translate electrical currents into usable instructions for a computer. In its simplest form, Boolean logic is a binary code that uses two values--true and false, or "on and off"--to translate electrical current into a usable message.
The electronics field has multiples areas, including physics, science, optics and biology. Progress made in one areahas a progressive effect on the others. One particular field that poses great promise is photonics. Photonics uses the properties of light as a medium for transmitting information. The emerging field of optoelectronics combines the quantum effects of light with the magnetic effects of semiconductor materials. Another new and promising field of study is that of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology works within the realm of atoms and molecules. It's a new dimension of manufacturing that looks to create new and improved substances, materials and processes. Scientists are working to apply the microchip model on the molecular level. If successful, a whole new world of products, and information processing capabilities, will emerge.