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From Silicon To Microprocessors

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the step-by-sandy-step dept.

Technology 174

prostoalex writes "Jim Turley from Embedded Systems Programming magazine answers the question of where microprocessors come from. While the public generally knows about the silicon and microprocessor vendors, few can describe the process of turning the beach sand into the latest and greatest several-hundred-dollars-worth CPU."

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174 comments

Batman touched my junk liberally (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184429)

Batman touched my junk liberally. he strapped me in to his batmobile and he couldnt keep his offensive hands off of me. he was performing many red flag touches. i couldnt believe what the fuck was going on. i told batman the city would not approve of a millionaire touching an underage kid for free.

Can you believe it? Batman did all this. He picked me off the street, strapped my arms and legs down in the batmobile's passenger seat, and just wouldn't stop fondling my cock'n'balls.

They definately were red flag touches. the goddamn referee he had in the back seat kept on raising up this red flag every time he touched my junk but did batman care? NO WAY! He just kept on doing it. I couldn't believe what the fuck was going on, indeed. I pleaded with Mr. Wayne but to no avail. I told him the city would not approve of such a wealthy man touching an underage kid like me (at the time I was 13) without at least compensating me for the trauma and the use of my body as his own personal plaything.

This got to him, worrying about his image. He continued to fondle me, all the while ignoring the referee's red flags. Then he drove the batmobile to my house and *ejected the seat I was in*! It was amazing. But surprisingly, after I woke up the next morning, my bank account had $150k in it! Can you believe it?

PS - how do you subject line trolls get slashdot to accept an apparently empty post body?

empty body troll secrets revealed! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184470)

<b><i> </i></b>

Wow (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184541)

I would have tried that if I thought for a second it would have worked. Mashcode is pretty crappy then.

Oh well, I guess what's important works. (ie developing and protecting the incestuous hivemind by removing people in the minority of M2 decisions from eligibility for mod points)

Re:Wow (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184577)

fuck you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184581)

near-first post (-1, Troll)

MOMOCROME (207697) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184430)

do mention the filthy poisons released by chip fabs. in thrid-woirld countries like korea and germany. all for a quick buck. the shame of it all...

Re:near-first post (1)

dreadnougat (682974) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184475)

Germany is third world?

Re:near-first post (1)

Absurd Being (632190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184624)

East Germany was 2.5th world, I seem to recall.

Re:near-first post (2, Informative)

Spudley (171066) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184776)

Technically, East Germany was 2nd World, until unification.

The term "3rd World" was coined to describe the rest of the world, after NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations, which were implied to be the first and second worlds respectively.

Although that definition didn't stick, the phrase did, and quickly came to take on the meaning that we all know, since most of the nations it included were desperately poor.

(Here endeth the history lesson ;-) )

Re:near-first post (1)

Absurd Being (632190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185137)

I of course meant 2nd World AND very poor. Hence the average, or 2.5th world. However, I believe E.Germany has made an impressive recovery and is no longer either. Oh well, it's just a joke anyhow.

Re:near-first post (0)

djxploit (748198) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184501)

i think that u just mentioned it... ehh let em suffer we give em jobs, to every upside there is a downside

Re:near-first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184630)

Ooooh, waht a k3wl DJ u r!

i just cracked your site, fagott!

From teh fag's "site":

Skills Acquired

Typing:

40 Words Per Minute (99% Accuracy)

Software:

Microsoft Word
Microsoft PowerPoint
Microsoft Excel
Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft FrontPage
Microsoft Exchange 5.0
MS-DOS
Adobe Photoshop
Discreet 3dmax
Macromedia Fireworks
Macromedia Dreamweaver
Macromedia Flash Presentations
Pascal Editor
Internet Explorer
Netscape Navigator
Windows 3.11 / 95 / 98 / Nt 4.0 / Win2k/WinXp
Unix & Linux (Basic knowledge)
Quark Express
Install Shield
Java Scripting
Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML)
Omnis 5 & 7 Software Development
Infra 5.5
TEM Manager
Novel Netware Manager

Hardware:

Dismantling computers & rebuilding them to
Solve trouble shooting problems and conflicts

Network installations

Hardware capabilities and compatibility

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fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
fagot Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
fagot Offtopic,fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
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fagot Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
fagot Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
fagot Offtopic,fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
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fagot Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
fagot Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive commfagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
fagot Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
fagot Offtopic,fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
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fagot If you want replies to your comments s
fagot Use a clear subfagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.fagot sts on topic.
fagot Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
fagot Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
fagot Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
fagot Offtopic,fagot sts on topic.
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ject that describes what your message is about.
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Re:near-first post (2, Insightful)

swordboy (472941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184579)

They *do* mention the effects that this has on one's brain - especially with metric conversion. From the article:

Raw silicon is grown into crystal ingots, which look like giant silver bolognas. Then it's sliced into exceptionally thin wafers about 6 to 8 inches (200 to 300mm) across

Ummm... yeah...

Re:near-first post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184660)

To teh fagot amerikans: this is ten tmies teh sise uv ur peenis!

Re:near-first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184598)

speaking of filthy poisons.... how did you escape from the lab this time?

Re:near-first post (0, Troll)

IchBinDasWalross (720916) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184688)

in thrid-woirld countries like korea and germany

Germany is not a third world country! Places like Elbonia are third world countries, where their "computers" are actually Game Boys with 56k modems.

Re:near-first post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8185091)

P.S.: in case you are interested in gay sex (casual or regular), mail me please: dieter_chen@yahoo.com

Thank you.

The birds and bees, flowers and trees (5, Funny)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184431)

The microprocessor stork brings them.

Right, mommy?

Re:The birds and bees, flowers and trees (1)

Dreadlord (671979) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184492)

no, mommy says that if I behave myself and be a good boy, santa will bring me a new 3+ GHz CPU.

Re:The birds and bees, flowers and trees (1)

cfuse (657523) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184753)

The microprocessor stork brings them.

Right, mommy?

No honey, they come from mommy's poon.

Re:The birds and bees, flowers and trees (2, Funny)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184859)

Sometimes, when a boy processor and a girl processor love each other very much...

fp (-1, Offtopic)

zebul0n (84908) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184433)

fp

NOT EVEN CLOSE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184463)

YOU FAIL IT.

(Use the Preview Button! Check those URLs!)(Use the Praview Botton! Check those URLs!)(Use the Priviw Bttn! Chack those ORLs!)(Use the Preview Button! Check those URLs!)

Upgrade from lunix (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184440)

208 Harbor Drive Stamford, CT 06912-0061 (203) 973-6700 Fax (203) 359-8066 metagroup.com Copyright (C) 2002 META Group, Inc. All rights reserved. 2 December 2002 File: SIS 1037 The Real Value of Linux Server Infrastructure Strategies Kevin McIsaac Under the guise of reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) in a tough economic environment, technical staffs are recommending replacement of Windows with Linux on their servers. This is based on the flawed assumption that because Linux is "free" it will reduce TCO. On closer inspection, it appears the recommendation is more an emotionally driven reaction against Microsoft than a factual case for Linux. Astute IT organizations will recognize that Linux's true value is derived more from the price/performance of the commodity Intel hardware it enables than from its open source characteristics. Our research indicates a strong interest in using Linux in the data center, but few clients understand the real value of Linux, nor have many clients embarked on major Linux projects outside of Web server farms, appliances (network-attached storage [NAS]), or general infrastructure servers (e.g., DNS, DHCP). Through 1Q03, Linux will begin to penetrate the application server tier, with IBM and BEA targeting Linux on Intel as a low-cost J2EE platform. By 1H03, Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) will demonstrate adequate highavailability clustering capabilities, enabling Linux to begin penetrating the low-end enterprise database market (i.e., 2-4 CPUs -- see Figure 1). By YE04, Lintel will constitute 25% of server sales for the application server tier and 10% of server sales in the database tier. By YE07, this will increase to 40% and 25% respectively. Although Linux has established a foothold in the Web tier due to the popularity of the Apache Web server (see SIS Delta 947), it still ranks a distant third (10% of Fortune 1000 companies) behind Solaris (30%) and Windows (50%). By 2007, Linux and Windows on Intel ("Lintel" and "Wintel") will be the dominant platform for the application server tier, leaving RISC/Unix vendors competing with IBM mainframes in the high-end database server tier (i.e., >8 CPUs). The success of Linux will come primarily at the expense of Unix (e.g., Solaris, AIX, HP-UX) rather than Windows servers. Indeed, the true value of Linux is as a viable alternative server operating system (OS) for commodity Intel hardware. Linux has emerged as the darling of the "technical crowd," yet the interest appears be more emotional than factual, and is based on a questionable lower-cost-of-ownership argument. The Linux OS license is "free," but that does not ensure that total cost of ownership will be reduced (see SIS Delta 1035). For example, Linux requires more staffing resources and effort to match the reliability, availability, and scalability of high-end Unix and Windows 2000 or XP servers (see SIS Delta 890). Users must purchase high-availability add-ons (e.g., clustering partitioning, "journaled" file systems) and support from third parties, which increases cost and complexity. Through 1Q04, this will limit Linux use to applications that do not demand high levels of reliability, availability, and scalability in a single server, such as Web server farms, application server farms, non-mission-critical applications, and, as Oracle RAC matures, DBMS clusters. Even if all other Linux costs were the same, the impact of its free OS license on total cost of ownership of a significant project (e.g., ERP, CRM) would be minimal, because the OS license fee typically is less than 2%-3% of the TCO. It is only when other significant pieces of software can be licensed at little or no cost (e.g., office suite, e-mail, DBMS) that TCO reduction is at a level significant enough to merit the additional complexity, risks, and potential cost overruns of Linux. META Trend: With highly distributed n-tier (DBMS, application, Web) server architectures commoditizing during 2002-04, Unix (other than Solaris) will recede to highend, low-volume, niche-platform status by 2005/06. Windows will increasingly dominate for midtier application servers (2002-04), due to growing ISV reference platform momentum, and be a suitable DBMS server for 90%+ of application requirements. Linux on Intel ("Lintel") will be a successful highvolume Web, technical computing, and appliance server OS, but enterprise application package (2003/04) and DBMS (2005/06) server penetration will be slower. Linux software and services prices will increase to about 10%-20% less than those of Windows by 2004/05. 208 Harbor Drive Stamford, CT 06912-0061 (203) 973-6700 Fax (203) 359-8066 metagroup.com File: SIS Delta 1037 Copyright (C) 2002 META Group, Inc. All rights reserved. 2 The key attractions to Linux are: Royalty-free distribution: This is clearly an attraction, making Linux essentially free, yet packaged versions that include documentation and support are not free of charge . We project that, through 2005, Linux prices will rise to within 20% of the cost of Windows (see SIS Delta 890). Access to source code: All versions include source code, making Linux compelling for technical staff. Governments and security agencies like the ability to check for backdoors and security vulnerabilities in the code. High levels of reliability: Based on the Unix architecture, and after extensive testing by the open source community, Linux has proven to be surprisingly robust as a new OS. Although this was compelling compared to NT 4, increased stability of Windows 2000 has narrowed this gap, making this less of an advantage. Yet Linux is still missing native high-availability features such as journaling file systems or clustering. Q: "Where should I use Linux?" A: Linux has its place in the data center, but it is not a silver bullet for Windows. Linux can be used in the following instances: In an appliance where the OS is not exposed (e.g., NAS, kiosks). Linux removes the licensing cost issues, and the appliance maker becomes responsible for the support and integration of Linux. Because the OS is not exposed, it does not have an impact on staff skills and training. When the price/performance benefits of commodity Intel servers over RISC are important, but single-image high availability is not an issue. Intel servers are widely used for scientific computing due to the computational price/performance of the Intel chipset. Web and application servers usually are computed bound, and Intel-based servers can deliver 2x-3x better price/performance than RISC. Although it is possible to use Windows in this application, many Unix-centric organizations will be more sympathetic to Linux and will find the skill transition much simpler. As a general-purpose infrastructure server (e.g., DHCP, DNS, POP), where solid reliability is required but high availability is not. Linux is particularly well suited in this role, because it is robust and many infrastructure products are readily available. On the other hand, Linux should generally be avoided whenever there is a requirement for single-image scalability above 4 CPUs (scale-up) or high availability based on OS-level clustering. In these circumstances, Windows 2000 or Unix should be used through 2004. Q: "Can I use Linux to replace Windows for file and print?" A: Although this is possible using Samba (an open source file-and-print service for Unix), it is not recommended. To simplify management, file and print must be incorporated in the directory services strategy that is used for the entire desktop infrastructure (e.g., Microsoft's Active Directory or Novell's ZENworks). Samba has basic access controls for the file and print services, but it does not replace a directory service, nor does it integrate with Active Directory of ZENworks in its current release (Samba 3.0, currently in development, will incorporate this). Instead of using Linux to replace Windows file and print servers, IT organizations should consider either consolidating the number of servers or using a NAS server for the file sharing. We have yet to see significant projects that replace Windows with Linux for file and print. A switch to Linux for file and print might lower purchase costs, but it would seriously affect the ease with which users can access the services as well as increase management complexity, thereby driving up the total cost of ownership. Organizations that allow emotional reactions (e.g., against Microsoft) to drive decisions to replace Windows or Unix with Linux will fail to achieve anticipated savings, and will end up with an infrastructure that is limiting and difficult to manage. Business Impact: Inappropriate use of Linux as a Windows or Unix replacement will weaken the IT infrastructure and reduce its business value. Bottom Line 208 Harbor Drive Stamford, CT 06912-0061 (203) 973-6700 Fax (203) 359-8066 metagroup.com File: SIS Delta 1037 Copyright (C) 2002 META Group, Inc. All rights reserved. 3 Addendum Figure 1 -- Key Server Platforms for Infrastructure Tiers: 2003-07 Source: META Group 2003 2007 Requires co - location Scale out Blade servers Thin rack form Small SMP (1-2 CPUs) Requires Rationalization Scale out brick & modular servers Rack or stand- alone form factor Medium SMP (1-4 CPUs) Rationalization for 80% of workloads consolidation for rest Scale up/out Single instance Large SMP or hybrid (NUMA) (4-16+ CPUs) Windows .Net Linux Windows .Net AS Linux Windows .Net ES Unix & Legacy Linux Multiple boxes IP load balancing Systems management services Same as above plus: Application server session management Application server load balancing Data storage (mirroring, RAID, replication) OS clustering DBMS clustering Typically 2 nodes (moving to 4+) Operating System Win2000 Linux Solaris Win2000 Solaris Linux Win2000 AS Unix Legacy Hardware Scalability High Availability Server Layer Web Server App Server DBMS Server Storage Layer Internal Direct- Attached Network- Attached Storage (NAS) Storage- Area Networks (SAN) factor (1-2U)

Not very long (-1)

Amsterdam Vallon (639622) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184444)

This process will change significantly by 2010.

Neuro/bio/nano-computing will take over traditional methods of chip fabrication.

DICK (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184456)

DICK

Dick (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184512)

Dick was obsessed with his dick.
He would beat off at least three times a day:
In the morning, when he woke up,
Right after or right before dinner,
Or right before he went to sleep.
If he didn't get in his three daily beat-off sessions,
He was a pain in the ass to be around.
He jerked off to tv-
Especially I Dream of Jenie and Dynasty and Charlie's Angels;
He pulled his pud to porno books;
He even jerked off
To the underwear ads
In the magazine section of the Sunday New York Times.
If you were a girl, talking to him on the phone,
Chances are he was beating his meat to the sound of your voice.
'Cause coming was his raison d'etre.
One time he was in the middle of jerking off to Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune
When a job offer came to him over the phone
And he needed the job bad
But he told the man he'd call him right back,
'Cause he needed to come more than he needed the job.
It wasn't that he was ugly or afraid of women or anything like that
He just honestly preferred his right hand.
I saw him the other day,
And he told me that last friday he was with two girls at their place
And they both wanted him to stay over.
But he went home,
Called up another girl,
and jacked off while talking to her.
I don't know why he tells me this stuff.
Dick's a fucked up guy.

...giant silver bolognas... (5, Funny)

burgburgburg (574866) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184464)

Raw silicon is grown into crystal ingots, which look like giant silver bolognas.

That, my friends, is a really unpleasant image.

Then it's sliced into exceptionally thin wafers about 6 to 8 inches (200 to 300mm) across, depending on the diameter of the ingot.

Owwww!!!!

Re:...giant silver bolognas... (5, Informative)

chullymonster (695441) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184713)

Have a look at MEMC's website (www.memc.com), they produce silicon wafers like the ones in the article. The site has some nice pics and animations of their manufacturing process.

Re:...giant silver bolognas... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184932)

150, 200 and 300mm Wafers are app. 6, 8 and 12 inches in diameter, respectively.

The surface area of a 200mm (20cm) wafer is just a tad above 628cm^2

You will need an unusually thick 200mm wafer to get to 968cm^2 surface area.

I am glad that semiconductors are designed by engineers, not analysts.

attempt to be funny? (-1, Redundant)

djxploit (748198) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184467)

[quote]New chips generally cost a few million dollars to design, but that's small beer compared to what it costs to build a new chip-making factory. Fabs or foundries, as they're called, cost upwards of $2 billion to build. You could buy a lot of cruise missiles for that kind of money or several small Caribbean republics (island not included). [/quote] ermmm fkn hell wish wash article - sorry just winging :P

Topics (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184482)

Eds, please pic more specific topics. The front page is beginning to look like a an e-store selling motherboards.

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184569)

That's pretty funny. If I hadn't been banned from mod points for disagreeing with the hivemind I'd give you +1, Insightful.

The process is simple: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184486)

1. Get a bunch of sand.
2. ???
3. Microprocessors!

It's all about what catches the eye (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184493)

or at least so I gather from the frequency with which the Silicone/Silicon mistake is made. Maybe if computer chips were warm instead of hot, and squeezably soft instead of hard, and bouncy always bouncy people would know more about them.

Don't squeeze the Pentium, Mr Whipple! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184715)

What was with that toilet paper squeezing pervert anyway?

One supplier (5, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184507)

When I lived in Midland, MI (home to Dow and Dow Corning) 'silicon' wasn't uncommon in casual conversations, particularly in a city of 40,000 with a large engineering population. Dow Corning, besides silicone compounds also provides silicon to a local company literally in the sticks, Hemlock Semiconductor [hscpoly.com] . Some nice stuff on their site regarding products, 1 [hscpoly.com] , 2 [hscpoly.com]

I'd always thought these materials were made in hot, dry climates, like Arizona, yet there was a supplier right in my backyard.

Oh, everyone knows... (3, Funny)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184518)

Hellacious spawning vats in the dark dungeons of Intel, AMD, IBM, and Apple.

*sqlorch*
*SQLORCH* ...
*Ding!*

Re:Oh, everyone knows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8185112)

Breed me a processor worthy of Mordor!

Clean Rooms (5, Informative)

nil5 (538942) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184528)

The only thing I don't like about the process is the working conditions: annoyingly loud!
For those of you that have never been in a clean room, there is a tremendous amount of ambient sound due to the very important air cleaning/circulation system. In order to make the clean room "clean", there can only be so much dust particles in the air. (e.g. 1ppm) (there are actually different classes of clean rooms)

The ramification of this is that one can hardly hear one's voice. Personally, I'm glad I'm not in the semiconductor field :)

Re:Clean Rooms (2, Interesting)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184563)

I do work in a clean room, class 5 is our usual but sometimes a bit lower. I never hear the noise, it is actually nice and quited inside our Fab.

not so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184642)

i worked in a class 1 facility and noise was there, but hardly annoying. nothing near those of other manufacturing facilities.

Re:Clean Rooms (3, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184781)

For those of you that have never been in a clean room, there is a tremendous amount of ambient sound due to the very important air cleaning/circulation system.

Well, shoot! That sure blows my image, I thought it was the disco music that people in Intel 'bunny suits' [tow.com] danced to.

Re:Clean Rooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8185053)

Also, don't forget the incredibly nasty hydroflouric acid that is used for mask etching. It numbs the nerves, so if it contacts skin it'll eat away your fingers without you noticing until you take off the glove. All the more reason to wear two pairs of gloves.

Geeks and history (3, Insightful)

FreemanPatrickHenry (317847) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184535)

A knowledge of history is almost always a Good Thing. I wonder how many programmers have never heard of Charles Babbage? ("Analytical Engine? What?") You should at least have a decent knowledge of the history of your craft. Call me old-fashioned, but my love of computer science isn't limited by EnterpriseJavaBeans and BiCapitalizedMumboJumbo and whatever buzzword happens to be out today. There's more to it than that.

Man, I'm old! (4, Interesting)

nordicfrost (118437) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184612)

I read the article and find myself actually knowing in advance how silicon chips are made. You see, in the 80ies we had childrens books about computers that covered something more than how to start Word and update Winblows.

Re:Man, I'm old! (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184689)

Heck, in the 70's I had to read the same computer books as the adults did! How they worked, how to program them, how to make your own digital circuits....

Re:Man, I'm old! (0)

Alephcat (745478) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184716)

I was not really up to reading those sort of books in the 80s (being born in 84) but I did still know most of what the article covered. I still thought it was an interesting article and useful for anyone how did not read those sort of books or works/ed in that industry.

the truth (5, Funny)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184616)

a couple of macroprocessors get drunk, start messing around... they wake up the next morning full of regret... next thing you know, there's a new microprocessor for someone to install, dress up in a nice case, feed it RAM, and reboot it when it makes a mess, which will be all the damn time for the first few months...

Obligatory Simpsons Quote (1)

Aqua_Geek (527624) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184921)

Ralph: IBM and Apple were in the closet making processors and I saw one of the processors and then the processor looked at me.

Re:the truth (1)

The Munger (695154) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185045)

I see I'm too late for the Simpsons reference. Maybe I could get in an 'Overlords' joke. Oooh, oooh, what about a SkyNet pun?

It's all too easy.

full text (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184633)

How do you get from beach sand to microprocessors? Prof. Turley explains the process. In doing so, he reveals a few secrets.


"Where do microprocessors come from, Daddy?" That's an awkward question we all must answer at some stage in our careers. What mysterious process converts elemental silicon into elemental forces like Intel's Itanium or Motorola's PowerPC? Let us explore the wonder that is semiconductor creation.


"When a customer and a vendor love each other very much . . ." they make a commitment to produce new chips. It's a big commitment, too. New chips generally cost a few million dollars to design, but that's small beer compared to what it costs to build a new chip-making factory. Fabs or foundries, as they're called, cost upwards of $2 billion to build. You could buy a lot of cruise missiles for that kind of money or several small Caribbean republics (island not included).


The amortization sucks, too. That $2 billion foundry will be obsolete in less than five years, so you're looking at more than $1 million of depreciation every single day. Very little of that cost goes into the silicon itself. You're mostly paying for the exotic equipment inside, including the neat-o air conditioners in the clean room.


In the beginning

Silicon chips all start out with, well, silicon. It's one of Earth's basic immutable chemical elements (element 14 in the periodic table, for those keeping score at home) and is basically purified beach sand. We're not likely to run out of this resource anytime soon. Tell your in-laws, by the way, that silicon is not the same as silicone. Silicone makes good weather stripping, a lubricant for squeaky hinges, and a source of income for cosmetic surgeons. It's not good for making microprocessor chips.


Raw silicon is grown into crystal ingots, which look like giant silver bolognas. Then it's sliced into exceptionally thin wafers about 6 to 8 inches (200 to 300mm) across, depending on the diameter of the ingot. Wafer (and ingot) diameters are standardized so that anyone's wafers can be processed in anyone's fab. A 300mm wafer is about as big around as a dinner plate and large enough for about 500 average-size chips.


From this point on, everything else happens in the fab's fancy clean room. "Clean" understates the case; these rooms are astonishingly, unbelievably sanitary. The best clean rooms are 1,000 times more pure and unpolluted than a hospital operating room. Stainless steel is everywhere; the floors and ceiling are perforated to promote air circulation; horizontal surfaces are sloped to avoid trapping dust, and yellow lighting discourages growth of single-cell organisms.


Clean room workers wear the now-familiar bunny suits. Looking like astronauts, these people are fully encapsulated and learn to recognize coworkers by their eyes. Getting in or out of a bunny suit takes about 15 minutes and involves walking across sticky floor mats and through an air shower. Breaks need to be carefully planned.


Let's see what develops

If you're a photographer or develop film in your own darkroom you'll already be familiar with what comes next. Silicon chips are made the same way that black and white prints are made. The entire fab is basically an enormous one-hour photo lab. The silicon wafer is the photographic print paper and the chip design is the negative. Mass-producing chips involves exposing the same negative a few hundred times over the entire surface of the wafer. When the wafer's been completely covered with chip "prints," you're done.



A whole lot of things make this process more complicated than it sounds. First off, silicon wafers aren't photosensitive, so simply exposing them to light doesn't do anything. The wafers have to be coated with photoresist, a chemical concoction that conducts electricity but is also sensitive to light. After the wafer is evenly coated with resistwhich itself is a tricky processyou can expose it by shining light through your chip's film "negative." That casts a chip-shaped shadow and imprints one copy of the chip onto the resist-covered wafer. After you wash away the exposed resist using ultrapure water and some other chemicals you've made one layer of one chip.


The idea here is to build up a three-dimensional stack of silicon, metal, and insulators. Chips are wired in 3D, they're not flat. They appear flat to the naked eyeextraordinarily flat, in factbut they're actually more like layered wedding cakes. A low-cost 8-bit microcontroller might have 8 to 10 layers while an exotic Athlon or Itanium has more than 40. Each of these is called a mask step or mask layer, and they all have to be done in sequence, from bottom to top.


Which brings us to the next problem. Each chip design has multiple layers, each with its own film negative. These layers need to be exposed one after another onto the same piece of silicon, exactly lining up. If the registration isn't perfect the layers of silicon, metal, and insulation will blur and the chip won't work. Unfortunately, you won't know that until after the chip's done and tested, and by that time you've already spent the time and money. Those chips wind up as paperweights, tie tacks, and sparkly souvenirs.


Superman, we need you

The other problem is that the film is invisible. Really. The patterns on each layer of the negative are so small and so fine that they're invisiblenot just to the naked eye, but to anything. The features are literally smaller than the wavelength of visible light. Shining normal light through a film layer would be like aiming a spotlight at a spider web; it won't cast a shadow. No shadow, no developing photoresist.


X-ray vision comes to the rescue. Instead of using visible light, chip makers use X-rays, extreme ultraviolet light (EUV), or laserlike beams of electrons (e-beam) aimed at the film layers. Even these science fiction techniques only forestall the inevitable. Film features are vanishingly small and getting smaller. Some chip makers now rely on interference patterns, like Moir patterns, to "trick" the equipment into casting sharp shadows from blurry images.



How small are we talking? Current state-of-the-art processing can create 90-nanometer-thin lines in silicon. That's 0.09 microns (micrometers), or 0.0000035433 of an inch. It's also only about 300 atoms. We're talking really small. This is what's known as the "feature size," and it describes the smallest feature that can be resolved or, in other words, the thinnest wire that you can make.


Features sizes shrink in discrete steps because only a few companies produce the breathtakingly expensive chip-making equipment. Before 90nm production the smallest reliable size was 130nm (0.13 micron), and before that, 180nm (0.18 micron). If you go back enough years, features were all bigger than a micron. Chip-making technology has improved by several orders of magnitude since the 1960s and shows no sign of letting up.


When people talk about a chip made in "point one-three" they're talking about the feature size (0.13 micron). When they talk about "200 millimeters" they're talking about the wafer size. There's no relationship between wafer size and feature size; you can make any size features on any size wafer. In practical terms, though, companies almost always use the largest wafers and the smallest features possible. Here's why.


Economics 101

Smaller features (finer lines) are a good thing because they make for smaller chips. Smaller chips run faster because the electricity has less distance to travel. More important, smaller chips mean more profit. And more profit is a good thing.


For an example, let's look at a 200mm silicon wafer, which has about 986cm2 of surface area. That's about the size of a salad plate. Let's say your chips are square (most are) and they measure 10mm on a sidethat's 100mm2 per chip. If the silicon wafer was also square you could fit 986 chips on your wafer. Alas, wafers are round so you can really only get about 279 chips on a wafer. But if you could reduce the size of your chip by just 10% to 90mm2, you'll fit 312 chips on a wafer. That's 12% more chips on the same amount of silicon. Not a bad deal.


Realistically, shifting to the next-smaller feature size slashes the size of a chip by about half, doubling the number of chips produced per wafer. Smaller features also reduce power consumption and heat dissipation, so finer lines are a win all the way around. The only downside is cost. Outfitting your fab with the latest lithography equipment to make these fine lines is not an inexpensive proposition.


Expensive real estate

Because most of the cost of chip making is in the equipment, not the silicon, your profitability depends entirely on volume. It's fairly accurate to say that the first chip costs you $2 billion to make; all the chips after that are free. Once you've paid for the fab, the labor and materials are, uh, immaterial. That's why smaller chips don't cost less, per se. They cost less because they increase the volume of product your $2 billion factory can produce. Silicon is like real estate: you're not paying for the dirt. You're paying for the space.


Lather, rinse, repeat

So now we've made one chip on a big wafer; how do we make more? That's the job of a stepper, a machine that carefully moves the wafer side to side until it's been completely covered with images of our new chip. As we saw before, a few hundred images will fit on a typical wafer. A few dozen more will partially fit and overlap the edge of the wafer. That's okay; we'll cut them off and discard them later.


Why not just use one big piece of film to expose the entire wafer at once? The problem is focus. As any photographer knows, the bigger the picture the blurrier the image. That's why big-screen TVs don't look so great up close. Chip images need to be ultra sharp, so a blurry "mega mask" wouldn't cut it.


Technically, today's chips are already slightly blurry at the edges. High-end chip designs compensate for this by putting less-critical circuitry in the corners. Intel's old i960MX microprocessor was octagonal. It was so big its corners had to be cut off.


Bringing out the diamonds

Once all our chips are exposed, rinsed, and exposed again, it's time to cut them apart into, well, chips. Up until now, our entire wafer has been handled all at once. All the chips were given a quick test while still on the wafer to see if any of them work. If they don't, the entire wafer gets tossed. If they do, the chips get cut apart. Using a diamond-edged saw, the wafer is diced up into individual chips and the "silicon sawdust" gets vacuumed away to avoid contaminating the finished chips.


A chip that's been cut loose from its wafer is called a die, and several die together are also called die, not dice. There's no particularly good reason for this grammatical inconsistency.


After each chip is tested to see if it works, it's usually tested again to see how fast it runs. Surprisingly, a 500MHz processor and a 700MHz processor aren't really different chips. They're probably neighboring chips from the same wafer that happen to run at different speeds. Slight variations in chemistry, contamination, or the phase of the moon seemingly can affect a chip's speed. It's common for microprocessor companies to sort their chips into at least two or three speed grades. The fastest 10% get sold at a premium price, while the slowest ones go to the bargain basementor get called something else.


Moore's Law

No discussion of semiconductors would be complete without a gratuitous mention of Moore's Law, usually misquoted and generally misunderstood. So for completeness, here goes.


In 1965 Electronics magazine published an article by Fairchild's head of R&D, Gordon Moore. In it, he speculated that his firm, and probably others, would be able to squeeze twice as many transistors onto a given area of silicon every year. Ten years later (that would be 1975) his prediction was right on the money but he watered down his doubling rate to once every 18 months. Over the years a number of people, including Moore himself, predicted the end of his eponymous "law," which is really just an empirical observation.


Moore never said anything about speed, performance, prices, computers, the Internet, or world peacejust packing density. All the other claims made in his name are the result of overzealous (or undereducated) marketing people.


Chip makers commonly lie about a chip's features. Well, maybe not lie exactly, but omit certain facts. You see, embedded processors with different features or peripherals often aren't different chips at all. Vendors will produce a single silicon design but then package and market it as different chips. For example, one version might have two UARTs and Ethernet while another version has five UARTs and no Ethernet. Chances are, they're really the same chip. Sometimes the "missing" features are disabled with a laser or by blowing a fuse. Sometimes they're disabled with firmware. As often as not, they aren't disabled at all, but just aren't mentioned on the data sheet. Programmers have occasionally found "secret" peripherals that aren't connected and aren't mentioned in the manuals.


Production quality tends to improve over time, so faster chips will become more plentiful. Sometimes it's not in the vendor's best interest to let customers know that, however. Even if half of the mature parts run at the peak speed, the vendor might arbitrarily limit the number of fast chips to, say, 15% of its volume to maintain an air of exclusivity. Enterprising customers have discovered this and over-clock their parts to gain a speed advantage.


Most chips are no bigger than your fingernail yet they contain the power and performance of room-sized mainframes from yesteryear. Any smaller and they'd be cheaper than the plastic package they're housed in; any bigger and they'd give off enough heat to melt themselves. Current semiconductor features are only a few hundred atoms thick in places. Surely we must be approaching the end of the road. But it doesn't look that way; new developments in lithography, epitaxy, and molecular manipulation should keep this family tree growing for many generations to come.


Jim Turley is an independent analyst, columnist, and speaker specializing in microprocessors and semiconductor intellectual property. He was past editor of Microprocessor Report and Embedded Processor Watch.

ARE YOU ANGRY YET? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184656)

You should be! You've been lied to. Your tax money has been taken from you and spent under false pretenses. Your children have been sent off to kill and be killed in an illegal war launched without Congressional approval. You who fought in the war and think you came back home healthy, well, you've been lied to as well. Your health is all downhill from here (ask any Vet from Desert Storm), and your children will have a higher incidence of birth defects because that depleted uranium isn't as harmless as you were told it was. And those VA medical benefits you were promised? That was a lie too. Are you angry yet?

And those of you who sold your better judgment for a free hot-dog and a flag at a Clear Channel sponsored pro-Bush rally, well, you were lied to as well, and worse, made to look totally stupid before the rest of the world. The media which walked right past peace demonstrations to video tape the Clear Channel party plastered your face across the TV sets of the planet, waving your flag and shouting "Sig WMD! Sig WMD" and singing "Dubya Dubya Uber Alles" or something to that effect. And here you stand now, with egg on your collective faces, finally facing up to what your more intelligent neighbors knew all along; There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush made a total fool of you. The whole world is laughing at you. Those lacking the courage to admit they were wrong will no doubt descend into the ranks of fanatical "true believers", ready to drink the Kool-Aid for his highnessness der Dubyer. For the rest of you brave enough to admit you were fooled, are you angry yet?

And for you Congressional types reading this web site (and I know that many of you do), Bush made total jackasses out of you as well. Under the Constitution, which you are sworn to uphold, only Congress can declare war. Changing the name to "police action" or "battle" does not get you off of the hook. When our army marches into another nation to take it over, that's a war by any meaningful definition of the word. So, you passed a bill that authorized the President to send in the military to Iraq, but ONLY if the President could prove that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction in defiance of UN Resolution 1441. The President said he had proof, and you did not check him on it. And now that the world knows that the President did not actually have any such proof, the world knows that the US Congress failed in their job. You were had, used, swindled, conned, etc. Bush bypassed you. He got his illegal war right past you. The President has made the entire Congress look like weak and impotent idiots and fools before the rest of the world for not exercising due diligence over a serious matter like war. Are you angry yet?

Our media has tried to teach us all that hate and anger are bad. Anger must be "managed". Hate of any and all kinds must be suppressed. Well, I am here to tell you that certain hates and angers are not only justified, they are essential. I hate drug dealers, don't you? I hate liars, don't you? You're a sucker if you don't. I hate spies who use deception to trick our nation into doing things it ought not to be doing. Hate and anger helped drive the British out of the colonies 1776. Hate and anger fueled the victory of WW2, which is why Bush, with his lies, tried to trick us all (or at least the gullible ones) into hating and being angry at a designated target for invasion.

I am very angry. #$%^#%$ anger management, I am pissed off! And if you carry any of the blood of those who made this nation what it is today you have to be angry too. You should be angry. You must be angry. Because right now there is a battle about to start over whether this nation will continue to be ruled by those who lie, or whether the liars will be kicked out. Whether we will have honest government or not. Whether we will be slaves to liars, or free citizens with honorable and respectful and fair government.

Be angry. Be very angry. Hate liars. Focus your anger on them. Drive them from office and from the media. There is no other choice but permanent servitude.

tinker-toys (4, Funny)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184661)

the latest and greatest several-hundred-dollars-worth CPU.

Only if you're buying intel can you get the latest and greatest for only several-hundred-dollars-worth. We call the intel servers at work "tinker-toys" because they are wimpy and cannot get much real work done.

The Alphaserver GS160, the IBM RS/6000, and the Sunfire 12k. Those are the manly servers that do the real work around here. I don't think you can replace fans in these things for "several-hundred-dollars-worth". ;-) The CPU's in these are a couple thousand dollars each.

Re:tinker-toys (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184714)

You fucking homo. I bet your a liberal.

Re:tinker-toys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184759)

Too bad the processors you mentioned comparitively suck :)

Varfor luktar mina fingrar bajs? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184679)

Mycket markligt.

Leaves out the meat... (5, Interesting)

HermesHuang (606596) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184697)

While informative on what it touches on, this doesn't describe what goes into making a chip. It describes how a chip is patterned. Then follows many many diffusion, oxidation, etch, and metallization steps that go between each photoresist mask step. I suppose it makes a good read for someone who wants just a general overview. But it makes it sound like making a chip is just a glorified film development process. I do microfab work, and the lithography steps are the steps we take for granted (mostly -- they still do take effort to get right, but are in general easier then what follows).

Re:Leaves out the meat... (3, Informative)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184885)

I agree. Even given a perfect mask, you can still blow the chemistry (implants, trenches, diffusion, whatever) for a given process step pretty easily. It also doesn't seem to mention the chemical-mechanical polishing needed to smooth the wafers after certain steps-- that's easy to screw up also.

But as far as an article targeted at a total layperson goes, it's okay. Not that most laypeople don't quickly lose interest when you start talking about wafers, masks, reticles, photoresist, process steps. You always have to start with the broader concepts and see when their eyes glaze over:

What do you do?
I work at a place that makes computer chips
Oh really? What kinds?
All kinds. I work in the ASICS group.
ASICS? Like the sneakers?

Re:Leaves out the meat... (1)

Naeleros (550233) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184991)

What kind of qualifications does someone need to work at a chip fab? How did you get started? I find it fascinating..but, I have always been curious how people *got their start*.

Re:Leaves out the meat... (4, Informative)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185082)

In and around the fab, there's a huge range of skills necessary, from babysitting machines to trying to figure out quantum mechanics.

To work in a bunny suit on the production floor? A high school diploma is often enough. To work in test/yield improvement? An EE degree, perhaps. To actually develop the bleeding edge processes? A PhD in physics.

There's far more to it than that, of course. And the actual chip designers could be across the parking lot or around the world.

Misses one important point: yield. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184717)

Having smaller die sizes is not good just because you can put more dies on a wafer. It is because your yield will improve. Dust/contamination is the real enemey, and bigger dies have an (exponentially or even worse) higher risk of having one dust particle destroying the chip function. Cutting the size with 10% may well lower the production cost by 50%.

And that is ofcourse why moving to a smaller technology (eg from .18 to .13) can be a real money saver (next to allowing higher clock rates).

Re:Misses one important point: yield. (2, Insightful)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184922)

Smaller dies can also mean a much cheaper package with less pins.

Re:Misses one important point: yield. (2, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185047)

Smaller dies can also mean a much cheaper package with less pins.

Beg pardon? Seems for the last 20 years processors have been gaining pins like some adherence to Moore's law. Seen the Athlon 64's lately? Didn't the 6502, 8086 and z80 processors have like 40 pins? I can't see a correllation between pins and die size.

Re:Misses one important point: yield. (1)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185143)

I can't see a correllation between pins and die size.

Smaller die would loosely correlate to less power, with fewer power and ground pins (most of the pins on a processor). But certainly you can design a processor that sucks amps and a DRAM of the same die size that break the correlation.

Why just square chips? (5, Interesting)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184718)

From the article:
For an example, let's look at a 200mm silicon wafer, which has about 986cm2 of surface area. That's about the size of a salad plate. Let's say your chips are square (most are) and they measure 10mm on a side?that's 100mm2 per chip. If the silicon wafer was also square you could fit 986 chips on your wafer. Alas, wafers are round so you can really only get about 279 chips on a wafer.

I guess the obvious question, since using squares on a round wafer wastes a certain amount of silicon, is why squares? Why not build a hex grid? That would seem to maximize the usage of the available area.

But then, I suppose cutting them out would be significantly more difficult.

What about triangles, then? Straight lines up and down, and in one (or both) diagonal directions.

On the other hand, someone's already thought of this:
Intel's old i960MX microprocessor was octagonal. It was so big its corners had to be cut off.

So my idea has an obvious flaw. The question is... what is it?

Re:Why just square chips? (5, Funny)

Timbotronic (717458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184869)

I guess the obvious question, since using squares on a round wafer wastes a certain amount of silicon, is why squares? Why not build a hex grid?

They tried this once, but all the geeks in the clean room started putting little orcs on the chips and played Dungeons and Dragons

Re:Why just square chips? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184906)

Easy, The octagonal intel chips was probably cut as a square. The corners were just wasted space. They were octagonal due to lithogrphy reasons, not to save space. Triangular chips are even worse then square in that regard. For the same area the crossection is larger making layout and lithography harder. Now triangles could still ork for small chips but if they are small you are not wasting much space anyway so its not practical to change your process to squease out an extra 1%.

Re:Why just square chips? (1)

JDevers (83155) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185056)

A related question would be why not make the wafers square?

Re:Why just square chips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8185133)

Silicon, being a crystal, probably naturally grows in a cylinder. Making a square wafer would mean growing the entire thing larger and cutting off the edges. Its just easier to leave the thing circular and get a couple extra chips in

Shape of the Chip (2, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185071)

I guess the obvious question, since using squares on a round wafer wastes a certain amount of silicon, is why squares? Why not build a hex grid? That would seem to maximize the usage of the available area.

But then, I suppose cutting them out would be significantly more difficult.

What about triangles, then? Straight lines up and down, and in one (or both) diagonal directions.

Well, NVidia discovered rotating them 45 degrees give them a diamond instead of a square. Think they're onto something?

Re:Why just square chips? (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185132)

Just a suggestion, but what would you do with the diagonal parts of the die (one die, not multiple die)? Most processors I have seen are not only square on the outside, they are also square on the inside. Correct me here if I am wrong though (/me checks his Pentium II processor on his key ring).

So you either have a tremendously more complex internal design, which makes use of these diagonals or you throw away space on the die itself. And for what? Upgrading to a larger wafer and smaller dies would bring down the waste as well.

See also
http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20040201/pre scott- 05.html
to get an idea what I am talking about. This is just an example guys, don't start a flamewar on Tom's hardware, would you?

The Silicon Fairy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184758)

You leave some silicon under your pillow and the next morning you will find the processor she leaves you. She is a little behind the times, still making Slot 1 types. Stupid bitch.

This doesn't make sense... (4, Interesting)

James Lewis (641198) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184805)

"Why not just use one big piece of film to expose the entire wafer at once? The problem is focus. As any photographer knows, the bigger the picture the blurrier the image. That's why big-screen TVs don't look so great up close. Chip images need to be ultra sharp, so a blurry "mega mask" wouldn't cut it."

I thought big screen TVs were "blurry" up close because they had fewer pixels per area. Besides... in this case, you wouldn't be making the image bigger, you would just be making a LOT of tiny images at once. Can someone either explain how his explaination makes sense, or what the real reason is?

Re:This doesn't make sense... (4, Informative)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184981)

I guess focus could certainly be a problem, but as far as wafer sized masks go, if you're creating a mask that costs many thousands of dollars, you're far less likely to have a defect in the mask if the mask is only the size needed for one die, and not the entire wafer. And since certain masks are not 1:1 masks but 2:1 or 4:1 masks, you'd might need a 1200mm mask for 4x a 300mm wafer. A 1.2 meter mask. See a problem?

Projection blur (2, Informative)

Atario (673917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184987)

I think he's talking about the fact that focus is consistent on a sphere, not a plane. Since the chips are flat, the image you project on them is only perfectly focused on a circle (the intersection of the perfect-focus sphere with the plane of the wafer). You can see this happen with regular slide-, TV-, or film-projection as well.

It sounds like they focus the center exactly and let it get blurry the further out you go (this is the case where the plane is tangent to the sphere -- a zero-radius circle of focus, which is of course a point). I would think they would set the cicle to be larger in order to get more area of better focus, but maybe having some blurring in the center screws up their designs more.

Dunno, IANAMCFA. (Dare anyone to figure out what that one meant.)

Re:This doesn't make sense... (2, Insightful)

lrucker (621551) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185120)

It doesn't make sense. For one thing, they don't even expose the entire mask at once - most machines do it in "stripes", after the original data was "fractured" (I work on the CATS fracture software). For another, it left out the problems involved in making the mask itself - one glitch, and you've got a $5000 perfectly flat glass paperweight. Making a mask to cover the whole area multiplies those problems.

ESP (2)

AvengerXP (660081) | more than 10 years ago | (#8184897)

"Embedded Systems Programming magazine"

Isn't this a tad specific? Why not a magazine about processors period? Is that too big? Just how much content can you have being specific about Embedded Systems Programming. Seriously, I'm asking.

And if it's about Programming, why is this an article about processors? I'm so lost, and i don't think it's my fault this time. Flame away boys i'm bored.

Re:ESP (5, Insightful)

elflet (570757) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185050)

Just how much content can you have being specific about Embedded Systems Programming

A huge amount. Many embedded systems have real-time requirements, tight memory-space limitations, and a much lower tolerance for failure than desktop systems. If you're talking about a comsumer embedded device (e.g. a cellphone), you have to deal with power management as well. There are multiple operating systems to choose from, several types of processor architectures (including the Harvard Archirtecture typified by Intel's old 8051 family that has entirely separate memory spaces for instructions and data), and several buses specific to embedded systems work.

Why should this matter? There are several embedded systems in your car, and I'm sure you'd be mightily ticked if your car just stopped working randomly. On a more mundane level, what about programmable thermostats or the security card readers where you go to work? That's not to mention the mission-critical embedded systems in aircraft and medical devices.

Oh my virgin eyes! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8184919)

So you're saying new processors are the result of men and women sweating away for days and months? And here I thought the Penguin brought them! (Tux, natch)

Wafer Diameter? (5, Funny)

Betelgeuse on Ice (562714) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185029)

Hmmm, and all this time I thought 200mm wafers were 8 inches and 300mm wafers were 12 inches. Maybe the author is a former NASA engineer...

And I agree, clean rooms are no fun. Ever trying typing on a plastic-coated miniature keyboard with two pairs of gloves?

Too elementary... (5, Informative)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185059)

They don't use beachsand, that's silicon dioxide (SiO2), also known as quartz.

Pure silicon chunks are actually made from condensing a very pure Silicon gas called Silane. The chunks are broken up, and melted in a very hot furnace, with a crucible made out of quartz(usually). Any doping, or impurities to give the silicon it's different electrical properties are added at this point. Boron (B) is fairly common.

Then, a nice perfect seed crystal of silicon is dipped into the molten silicon which starts to crystalize around the seed crystal. The growing crystal is turned and slowly pulled out of the liquid silicon as it grows to help keep it regular. The result is called a boule, or "the bologna looking thing"

As a side note, the doping is usually too high at the top of the boule, and too low at the end of the boule, so only about the middle 25% is used.

Then it gets sliced into wafers. etc. etc.

Mistakes? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8185066)

There are more than a few nits...

(1) Silicon is not sand. Sand is silicon dioxide (well, most sand). It needs to be reduced (the oxygen needs to be removed) and purified. And purified. And purified. (I believe Brazilian quartz is actually the preferred stock for silicon dioxide, rather than sand, due to its purity.)

(2) Photo-resist does not need to be electrically conductive. It does need to be capable of resisting attack by whatever chemicals are next in the step (especially the HF). Since they're usually polymers that are either polymerized or depolymerized by the exposure, they generally are not conductive.

(3) Current generation laser steppers are not EUV. (They are UV, maybe DUV, being slightly less than 1/2 the wavelength of visible indigo.)

(4) One could get the impression that each chip on the wafer is processed separately at each step.

(5) Fabs and foundries are related but distinct entities. (I personally have worked in a fab, but never a foundry.)

(6) It's the mask that is imprinted on the wafer's photoresist, not the chip.

(7) Moore's law is incorrectly repeated. This is especially bad because it claims to be correcting the common belief (which it probably is). Moore's law was about the economics of chip density -- the most _cost effective_ density doubles every 18 months.

(8) I've usually heard and talked about individual die and multiple dice. (And breaking up wafers into chips is called dicing.) Maybe others call them (plural) die, but not everyone.

(9) The 200mm wafer area calculations are wrong. A 200mm wafer has a radius of 10cm; the area is therefore (10)^2*pi ~= 310cm^2. So one won't get 986 die from a square wafer and only 279 from a round one.

(10) Lots and lots of companies don't build their chips on the smallest feature sizes possible. Very few can afford to manufacture 90nm chips at this point, so the bulk of chip _designs_ are manufactured at .13u, .18u, or larger.

There are probably many more errors...

RJ

I seem to recall.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8185070)

While the article is a good introduction.. I think he omitted an important step in chip fab. IIRC, after you expose the photoresist and wash away the exposed sections, you need to pour a special acid which seeps into the channels of the photoresist and etches the patern into the silicon. Then you can remove the photoresist layer and move on.
As he explained it he never mentions how the pattern get burned into the silicon. Tsk tsk.

Donald Duck (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8185077)

Donald Duck is going to have a SCREAMING ORGASM when he finally finds out where microprocessors cum from.

Why the clean rooms? (4, Insightful)

kindofblue (308225) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185094)

More to the point, why are humans required at all in the manufacturing process. I would expect the entire manufacturing and testing process, from sand to plastic-encased chip, to be automated enough that people in bunny suits should not be needed. Maybe they are needed to replace the robots and fill up the supplies, but other than that, what do they do?

Whose Power PC? (2, Insightful)

marshall_j (643520) | more than 10 years ago | (#8185142)

"Where do microprocessors come from, Daddy?" That's an awkward question we all must answer at some stage in our careers. What mysterious process converts elemental silicon into elemental forces like Intel's Itanium or Motorola's PowerPC? Let us explore the wonder that is semiconductor creation.

Shouldn't that include IBM? [macobserver.com]

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