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Chip Hall of Fame: Intersil ICL8038 Waveform Generator

Intersil’s somewhat cranky chip brought complex sound generation to consumer electronics

1 min read
Intersil ICL8038 Waveform Generator

A good basic waveform—an electrical voltage varying in time—is the raw material from which much more complex behavior can be constructed. Intersil's ICL8038 integrated circuit was designed to meet the need for a convenient way to obtain a precise waveform, capable of simultaneously generating sine, square, and sawtooth waveforms with only a few supporting external components.

ICL8038 Waveform Generator

Manufacturer: Intersil

Category: Amplifiers and Audio

Year: circa 1983

Initially critics scoffed at the 8038's limited performance and propensity for behaving erratically. And the chip was indeed a bit temperamental. But engineers soon learned how to use it reliably, and the 8038 became a major hit, eventually selling into the hundreds of millions and finding its way into countless applications—including later versions of the “blue boxes" that phreakers used into the 1980s to beat the phone companies. Intersil discontinued the 8038 in 2002, but hobbyists still seek it today to make things like homemade function generators and modular analog synthesizers.

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How Ted Hoff Invented the First Microprocessor

Hoff thought designing 12 custom chips for a calculator was crazy, so he created the Intel 4004

14 min read
How Ted Hoff Invented the First Microprocessor

The rays of the rising sun have barely reached the foothills of Silicon Valley, but Marcian E. (Ted) Hoff Jr. is already up to his elbows in electronic parts, digging through stacks of dusty circuit boards. This is the monthly flea market at Foothill College, and he rarely misses it.

Ted Hoff is part of electronics industry legend. While a research manager at Intel Corp., then based in Mountain View, he realized that silicon technology had advanced to the point that, with careful engineering, a complete central processor could fit on a chip. Teaming up with Stanley Mazor and Federico Faggin, he created the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004.

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