Have you ever wondered how complex ICs are really made, and how you get from raw silicon to finished chips? I was lucky enough to spend a short but happy part of my career working at a fairly large chip fab (though as an apps engineer, nothing to do with manufacturing), but still find myself with more questions than answers on the gritty details of it all. It was an amazing eye-opener for me to see first-hand the kind of mastery and machinery that it takes to produce finished chips, going through design, processing, testing, packaging, characterization, etc. I think the only thing as humbling has to be seeing something like the space programs at NASA or something similar. You can only be in awe of the level of mastery required across so many disciplines to pull something like this off.
Unfortunately, most of the technical documentation out there on this stuff is understandably written for and by people who are hopelessly above my pay grade, and I don’t understand a fraction of it (and I’m happy to admit it!). If you’re really curious about getting an accessible look into chip design without the need for 10 years of training in semiconductor physics, though, Demystifying Chipmaking by Yanda, Heynes and Miller (published by Newnes) is an unusually accessible introduction to the topic. (You can even get the first three chapters free in a preview off Amazon if you have a Kindle or download the Kindle SW.) It’s an old book, but it’s still relevant today since it’s focused on CMOS, and even if they only talk a bit about the <100nm processes that are common today, the basics still apply. Have a look at the free chapters, and see if the rest interests you!
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
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