What is a Intergrated Circuit (IC)?


An integrated  circuit  (IC)  is  bacically  a  miniaturized  electronic circuit  consisting  of  
semiconductor devices (transistors & diodes),  as well as passive components (resistors and capacitors) constructed on a semiconductor wafer.  The wafer is sometimes referred to as a chip, silicon chip, microchip or microcircuit; the discrete devices and components on the chip are connected together to preform a particular task or function.  How many devices and components are used per chip determines it's classification. 

SSI (small-scale integration): Up to 100 electronic components per chip
MSI (medium-scale integration): From 100 to 3,000 electronic components per chip
LSI (large-scale integration): From 3,000 to 100,000 electronic components per chip
VLSI (very large-scale integration): From 100,000 to 1,000,000 electronic components per chip
ULSI (ultra large-scale integration): More than 1 million electronic components per chip

The schematic symbol for a 16 pin intergrated circuit is shown below.


Integrated circuits have revolutionized the world of electronics and are used in computers, cellular phones, and other digital appliances.  The impact of integrated circuits on our lives has been enormous.  ICs have become the principal components of almost all electronic devices.  Integrated circuit microcomputers are now used as controllers in machine tools, vehicle operating systems and children toys.  The main advantages of ICs over discrete circuits are cost, performance and reliability.  Lower cost - because all the components are on the chip and are not constructed as one component at a time.  Performance is high since the components switch quickly and consume little power due to  the smaller components and proximity.  Some integrated circuits are considered standard, off-the-shelf items such as voltage regulators, amplifiers, analog switches, and analog-to-digital or digital-to-analog converters.  Other intergrated circuits require extensive design work (ex. microprocessors).

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