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Guide for Tech Beginners - Integrated Circuits

Integrated Circuits

Integrated Circuits Integrated Circuits

An integrated circuit (IC), sometimes called a chip or microchip, is a semiconductor wafer on which thousands or millions of tiny resistors, capacitors, and transistors are fabricated. Integrated circuits (ICs) are a keystone of modern electronics. They are the heart and brains of most circuits. An IC can function as an amplifier, oscillator, timer, counter, computer memory, or microprocessor. A particular IC is categorized as either linear (analog) or digital, depending on its intended application.

Linear ICs have continuously variable output (theoretically capable of attaining an infinite number of states) that depends on the input signal level. As the term implies, the output signal level is a linear function of the input signal level. Ideally, when the instantaneous output is graphed against the instantaneous input, the plot appears as a straight line. Linear ICs are used as audio-frequency (AF) and radio-frequency (RF) amplifiers. The operational amplifier(op amp) is a common device in these applications.

Digital ICs operate at only a few defined levels or states, rather than over a continuous range of signal amplitudes. These devices are used in computers, computer networks, modems, and frequency counters. The fundamental building blocks of digital ICs are logic gates, which work with binary data, that is, signals that have only two different states, called low (logic 0) and high (logic 1).

Depending on the way they are manufactured, integrated circuits can be divided into two groups: hybrid and monolithic. Hybrid circuits have been around longer.

IC Packages

The package is what encapsulates the integrated circuit die and splays it out into a device we can more easily connect to. Each outer connection on the die is connected via a tiny piece of gold wire to a pad or pin on the package. Pins are the silver, extruding terminals on an IC, which go on to connect to other parts of a circuit. These are of utmost importance to us, because they’re what will go on to connect to the rest of the components and wires in a circuit.

There are many different types of packages, each of which has unique dimensions, mounting-types, and/or pin-counts.

Pin Numbering

All ICs are polarized,and every pin is unique in terms of both location and function. This means the package has to have some way to convey which pin is which. Most ICs will use either a notch or a dot to indicate which pin is the first pin. (Sometimes both, sometimes one or the other.)

Mounting Style

One of the main distinguishing package type characteristics is the way they mount to a circuit board. All packages fall into one of two mounting types: through-hole (PTH) or surface-mount (SMD or SMT). Through-hole packages are generally bigger, and much easier to work with. They’re designed to be stuck through one side of a board and soldered to the other side.

Surface-mount packages range in size from small to minuscule. They are all designed to sit on one side of a circuit board and be soldered to the surface.

Common ICs

Logic Gates (7400 series), Timers (555, 556), Shift Registers (74HC164, 74HC595), Microcontrollers (PIC16F877A, ATmega328P), Microprocessors (8086, 80386, MC68030), FPGAs, Sensors(LM35, 5843), RTC (DS3231, DS1307), Etc.


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