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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor | Processor Physical Characteristics ]

Processor Manufacturing

Many people do not realize that when they pick up a small Pentium "chip" (for example) and look at it, they are not really seeing a Pentium chip at all. They are seeing the external packaging that is used to house the chip and allow it to interface with the rest of the PC. The actual chip is, amazingly, much smaller and more fragile. It is a square or rectangle of chemically-altered silicon, thinner than a dime, and with a surface area less than a third of a square inch! Considering that packed into this space are literally millions of precisely-placed electronic switches, processor design and manufacturing is truly one of the wonders of modern technology.

This section discusses the steps followed to physically design and manufacture chips. Many of the descriptions in this section are applicable to most highly complex integrated circuits, not just processors. In fact, in a modern PC most of the chips you see on the motherboard or expansion cards are manufactured using concepts and techniques similar to those described here. Processors usually however are on the leading edge, as they are the largest and most complex circuits. The descriptions here are simplified of course; semiconductor manufacturing is a highly complex technical subject that I could never do justice to in only a few paragraphs.

Note: This is an advanced section containing primarily background information. It's interesting, but not directly related to the matters of how a processor works, so you can skip it if you are looking for more practical information.

Next: Semiconductor Materials and Wafer Manufacture

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