25 Microchips That Shook the World

A list of some of the most innovative, intriguing, and inspiring integrated circuits

23 min read
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The Signetics NE555 Timer, designed by Hans Camenzind.

Hans Camenzind
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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.

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The EV Transition Explained: Can the Grid Cope?

Palo Alto offers a glimpse at the challenges municipalities and utilities face

8 min read
A man plugging a charger into an outlet

Enel's Juicebox 240-volt Level 2 charger for electric vehicles.

Enel X Way USA

There have been vigorous debates pro and con in the US and elsewhere over whether the electric grids can support EVs at scale. The answer is a nuanced “perhaps.” It depends on several factors, including the speed of grid component modernization, the volume of EV sales, where they occur and when, what kinds of EV charging are being done and when, regulator and political decisions, and critically, economics.

The city of Palo Alto, California is a microcosm of many of the issues involved. Palo Alto boasts the highest adoption rate of EVs in the US: In 2020, one in six of the town’s 25,000 households owned an EV. Of the 52,000 registered vehicles in the city, 4,500 are EVs, and on workdays, commuters drive another 3,000 to 5,000 EVs enter the city. Residents can access about 1000 charging ports spread among over 277 public charging stations, with another 3,500 or so charging ports located at residences.

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The James Webb Space Telescope was a Career-Defining Project for Janet Barth

NASA’s first female engineering chief was there from conception to first light

5 min read
portrait of older woman in light blue jacket against dark gray background Info for editor if needed:
Sue Brown

Janet Barth spent most of her career at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md.—which put her in the middle of some of NASA’s most exciting projects of the past 40 years.

She joined the center as a co-op student and retired in 2014 as chief of its electrical engineering division. She had a hand in Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, launching the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, and developing the James Webb Space Telescope.

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