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New Chips Loaded With Dummy Parts

Reverse-engineering firm reveals how "design for manufacturability" is changing the look of ICs

3 min read
New Chips Loaded With Dummy Parts

16 September 2009—Dissecting tiny semiconductor chips and guessing how they're made sounds like a hobbyist project, but it's a bona fide living for the reverse-engineering firm Chipworks, based in Ottawa, Ontario. Dick James and other Chipworks engineers like to sniff out what's going on beneath the surface of chips, using their knowledge of the industry combined with some sophisticated chemical analysis.

What they're finding now are a deluge of "dummy features"—structures that don't improve the performance of the chips at all but rather yield more functional and reliable chips on each silicon wafer.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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