Chip Hall of Fame: IBM Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip

Deep Blue’s logic chip powered the first major victory of an AI over a human

1 min read
IBM Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip
Image: Feng-Hsiung Hsu

chipImage: Feng-hsiung Hsu

Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip

Manufacturer: IBM

Category: Logic

Year: 1997

On one side of the board, 1.5 kilograms of gray matter. On the other side, 480 chess chips. Humans finally fell to computers in 1997, when IBM’s chess-playing computer, Deep Blue, beat the reigning world champion, Garry Kasparov. Each of Deep Blue’s chips consisted of 1.5 million transistors arranged into specialized blocks—such as a move-generator logic array—as well as some RAM and ROM. Together, the chips could churn through 200 million chess positions per second. That brute-force power, combined with clever game-evaluation functions, gave Deep Blue decisive moves that Kasparov called “uncomputerlike.” These moves “exerted great psychological pressures,” recalls Deep Blue’s mastermind, Feng-hsiung Hsu, now at Microsoft.

Since Deep Blue’s victory, more and more games in which human intelligence seemed to have the upper hand have fallen to the machines: in 2016, Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s best Go player, Lee Sedol.

Photo: Kathy Willens/AP Photo

The Monoliths: Deep Blue 2 was built out of hundreds of position-evaluating dedicated chess chips.

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The Godfather of South Korea’s Chip Industry

How Kim Choong-Ki helped the nation become a semiconductor superpower

15 min read
A man in a dark suit, bald with some grey hair, leans against a shiny blue wall, in which he is reflected.

Kim Choong-Ki, now an emeritus professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, was the first professor in South Korea to systematically teach semiconductor engineering.

Korea Academy of Science and Technology

They were called “Kim’s Mafia.” Kim Choong-Ki himself wouldn’t have put it that way. But it was true what semiconductor engineers in South Korea whispered about his former students: They were everywhere.

Starting in the mid-1980s, as chip manufacturing in the country accelerated, engineers who had studied under Kim at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) assumed top posts in the industry as well as coveted positions teaching or researching semiconductors at universities and government institutes. By the beginning of the 21st century, South Korea had become a dominant power in the global semiconductor market, meeting more than 60 percent of international demand for memory chips alone. Around the world, many of Kim’s protégés were lauded for their brilliant success in transforming the economy of a nation that had just started assembling radio sets in 1959 and was fabricating outdated memory chips in the early ’80s.

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