Integrated Circuit (IC)

An integrated circuit (also called chip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material, usually silicon.


When we first started making ICs, they had dozens to hundreds of transistors, but today they contain hundreds of millions or even billions of transistors.

Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments was the inventor of the IC in 1958. Before that, everything was its own component, and it was SUCH a pain to manufacture. And everything was HUGE. Now, everything could be shrunk down to tiny components. And so began Moore’s Law.

IC vs. processor vs. CPU?

  • IC (Integrated Circuit): A set of electronic circuits on a small semiconductor material, usually silicon.
  • Processor: A general term for an integrated circuit designed to perform data computations.
  • CPU: The specific processor in a computer system that carries out software instructions and controls other hardware.
    • Many Processors in a CPU: Modern CPUs often have multiple “cores,” which are essentially individual processors, but they function together as a single CPU unit.

ICs make up modern computer component:

Is there computer hardware that isn't made of ICs?

Yes, some computer hardware components are not entirely made up of integrated circuits (ICs), including:

  • hard drives
  • power supplies
  • cooling fans

These parts contain mechanical elements, magnetic materials, or electrical components that aren’t IC-based.

Cost of Integrated Circuit

Some equations below that I probably will never use again.

We evaluate performance of chips using two metrics:

  1. Execution time (latency) - from start to end of job
  2. Throughput or bandwidth - total amount of jobs completed per period of time

See CPU for the CPU Execution Time. For comparing between two, see Performance Comparison.