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Chip Hall of Fame: STMicroelectronics STA2056 GPS Receiver

Inexpensive and small, this GPS receiver turbocharged the market for integrated navigation in mobile devices

1 min read
STA2056 GPS Receiver chip
Photo: STMicroelectronics

STA2056 GPS Receiver

Manufacturer: STMicroelectronics

Category: Wireless

Year: 2004

A time-honored design stunt in the world of chipmaking is the kill-two-chips-with-one-chip move. Back in 2004, STMicroelectronics did it with GPS receivers. Previously, there was one chip housing a GPS radio front end, which picks up the navigation signals being sent from orbiting GPS satellites. And another chip contained a microprocessor, some memory, and a signal correlator—GPS determines the location of each receiver by comparing the signals from multiple satellites. With the STA2056 [PDF], these two chips where smashed together. Although handheld GPS systems were already on the market, the STA2056 set a new standard for size and power consumption. And at US $8, the chip was cheap, driving the cost of GPS devices down and helping open up a mass market for them. Fiat used the chip in several Alfa Romeo models, and GPS vendor Becker put it in its handsets. It also helped propel the notion of GPS as something that could be integrated into devices and not just used as a standalone product or module. Today almost every phone—and quite a few watches—has a GPS chip, typically used in concert with other techniques like Wi-Fi beacon mapping to allow navigation even when a satellite isn’t in view. And, of course, the two-chips-into-one trick remains a favorite of chipmakers everywhere.

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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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