OT: microchip images


Apologies for the offtopic posting, but I thought most here might enjoy some images and a bit of "e-humor".

Seems HP and DEC enjoyed setting images on their chips of different media images on some older computer equipment. The gallery is quite humourous.

Well worth a read. Anyone notice if HP Calcs have any images on any of the chips? Say, like a coconut?



Yes, seems to be long practice!

I also put a few on my site: Etienne




Hi Jim, Ettienne.

I really appreciate those pages of yours.

I saw a bit of this in a Discovery channel show on the "microchip".

The only thing in this vein I remember was as a kid of 11 in 1974 I owned an early sheen four function calc. This used the first calc chip by mostek (but of course I didn't know that until a few weeks ago).

Well, it died so I got another one... and sweat unsoldered the metal lid. Under my microscope I found a "1971" date stamp on the part. If anyone is interested in looking at chip dice, you can easily unsolder the lid of say an old 80386 or 80486 using a butane torch. Very old DRAM is interesting in that light can be focused on the die, where cells are thus selectively discharged. The cell addressing can be arranged in such a way that you can get crude CCD type imaging this way. I briefly did this sort of thing as a hobby in 1987.

I have always found microelectronics engineering fascinating.



When we made our chip as a student project, my friend and I also "engraved" our names into a small piece of free space. That was about 1989, working with standard cell technology in 1.5 micro meter technology.

Since we were both not gaphically oriented, it didn't occur to us to place small images on the chip. Shame :-(


It is not uncommon at all to have something on the die that can be recognized by humans. This is text (for version identification) and typically a logo. Even today this is done on modern chips, at least on one that I participated in. We had a huge printout of the die hanging on the wall, and the logo and text were there.



Oh yes, we also had a lot of fun putting images or at least initials on the chips we designed. But three unfortunate developments have put an end to this fun: it became more and more difficult to design images that pass the DRC and LVS verification steps, time pressure on development teams increased and increased and increased ... (still increasing) and the filler structures needed for processes using CMP make it impossible to see images in the lower layers, and the top metal layers usually are too crowded as they must carry the supply currents.

On such modern chips you can see nothing except a morass of really fat metal wiring (mostly supplies) and seas of bricklike blocks in between, and all the chips more or less look the same: boring.

Seems that "chip images art" is an episode which belongs to the past :-(

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