Ever hear of an INTEGRATED CIRCUIT?
Know what it is? Basically, it's a single piece of semiconductor material (i.e. silicon or germanium) that's used in an electronic circuit in place of a bunch of individual components.
Kinda like if you were building with Lego blocks. (Oh, you KNOW you love 'em!) Let's say you had a big bag of itty bitty blocks to put together. Sure, you could pull out your handy dandy magnifying glass and do it, of course, but what if some of those blocks were already put together for you into larger units? Things would suddenly become a lot easier, wouldn't they?
With integrated circuits, that's exactly what manufacturers do. They put some of the components together for you. They put the components within the semiconductor material, and in such a manner that the IC performs a specific function within the circuit. Oh, and because of the piece, or chip, of silicon within these devices, ICs are also know as ... chips.
|How many of these components can you identify?|
In the picture above, the ICs are mostly clustered in the lower left hand corner, but the little red jobbie to the left of the LEDs is one, too.
Some ICs may only have a few components; others may have hundreds, or even thousands. (Whew! Talk about saving builders a TON of soldering!) Some are general-purpose chips; others are very specialized, and designed for one specific purpose within a circuit. It isn't a stretch of the imagination to call ICs electronic building blocks.
|I'll bet you can pick out the ICs on this circuit board.|
|And this one.|
The upside to ICs? They make life a lot easier for builders, and they're extremely space-efficient, which is one reason commercially-produced electronic appliances and gadgets are so much smaller than they used to be.
The downside? If a component within an IC in your electronic appliance or gadget goes belly up, you may be outta luck. As technology advances, and IC designs mutate, the exact IC may no longer be readily available, so it may cost less to replace an item than have it repaired. More and more, these items are being considered throwaways ...
to SOME people.