This is part of IEEE Spectrum's Special Report: 25 Microchips That Shook the World.
cofounder and chairman emeritus of Intel
There were lots of great chips, but one that will always be dear to me was the Intel 1103, the first commercial 1024-bit DRAM [introduced in 1970]. It was the chip that really got Intel over the hump to profitability. It was not the most elegant design, having many of the problems that memory engineers had become familiar with in core memories. But this was comforting to such engineers--it meant that their expertise was not going to be made obsolete by the new technology. Even today, when I look at my digital watch and see 11:03, I cannot help but remember this key product in Intel’s history.
cofounder of Sun Microsystems and partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers
The Motorola 68010 was my favorite chip. With its power and virtual memory support, it said to the world, ”Microprocessors can stand and compete with the big boys--the minis and mainframes.”
professor of engineering and applied science, Caltech
My favorite chip contained only a single transistor, although a remarkable one: a Shottky barrier gate field-effect transistor made from GaAs (later called the MESFET and now, using more advanced semiconductor structures, the HEMT). I designed it over Thanksgiving break in 1965. The very high mobility of the III-IV materials, together with the absence of minority-carrier storage effects, made these devices far superior for a microwave power-output stage. Despite my efforts to interest American companies, the Japanese were the first to develop these devices. They have made microwave communications in satellites, cellphones, and many other systems possible for many decades.
managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson
The Motorola 68000 was a special one. I built a speaking computer with it. I also wrote a multitasker in assembler. That chip was the workhorse of learning back during my M.S.E.E. days. But wait--other chips come to mind. I also like ZettaCore’s first 1-megabyte molecular memory chip, D-Wave’s solid-state 128-qubit quantum computer processor, the Pentium (I’ve got an 8-inch wafer signed by Andy Grove in my office), the Canon EOS 5D 12.8-megapixel CMOS sensor, and the iTV 5-bit asynchronous processor running Forth and a custom OS--whew!
chief technology officer, Xerox
My selection is Analog Devices’ iMEMS accelerometer , the first commercial chip to significantly integrate MEMS and logic circuitry. Commercialized in the early 1990s, it revolutionized the automotive air-bag industry--and saved lives! Today this type of accelerometer is used in a variety of applications, including the Nintendo Wii and the Apple iPhone. Other types of MEMS chips are more and more present in a broad variety of applications.
founder of TSMC
One of my favorite great microchips is the Intel 1103, 1-kilobit DRAM, circa 1970. Reasons: one, huge commercial success; two, started Intel on its way; three, demonstrated the power of MOS technology (versus bipolar); and four, opened up at least another 40 years of life for Moore’s Law.
Intel’s chief architect for hybrid parallel computing
My favorite chip: the 6502 from MOS Technology . This 8-bit microprocessor was used by me and many hobbyists for building our own computers [above, me and my homemade PC in 1977]. I wrote a small operating system that fit in 4 kilobytes, and Tiny BASIC from Tom Pittman fit in 2 KB. The reason it was a great chip was that in the 8-bit era, you could use the first 256 bytes of memory as 128 16-bit pointers to index from, making this machine much easier to program than other 8-bit alternatives. It was a big deal when you had to enter your programs in hexadecimal binary form.