Friday, March 12, 2010

Whats Inside your Microprocessor?

Who would think that within the intricate internal design of the chips, its designers might be hiding tiny pictures of famous characters such as Mickey Mouse or Tux only observable under a microscope.
Silicon Zoo is a site dedicated to searching and collecting this type of hidden art.

The next time your computer crashes thought to be due to a flying elephant or perhaps a T-Rex playing the guitar in your CPU..:)

This jukin' dinosaur was found next to the mask design credits on the Silicon Graphics MIPS R12000 microprocessor. He appears to us to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but then again we're not really experts on dinosaurs. Directly to the right of the dinosaur appears some of the names of the engineers who participated in the design of the chip, which was internally code-named the Trex. The silicon reptile is about 50 microns high and is isolated on his own pad. We have been informed that this dinosaur is derived from the clip-art Hypercard stack that was shipped with Hypercard in the Macintosh OS version 7.5.

We caught this miniature elephant flying around with his superman cape on a MIPS-designed memory integrated circuit. The slogan beneath the elephant reads: BIT Superior Memory Products. A quick search of the web failed to reveal a company named "BIT" in the business of designing and fabricating memory. If any of our visitors recognize this elephant, we would appreciate some information about its origin.

This unique version of Mickey Mouse with his hands pointing to 12 and 7 (creating a miniature silicon clock fixed in time) was found on the Mostek 5017 alarm clock integrated circuit. We were alerted to this creature by Eric Putnam of Kirkland, Washington who also loaned us a copy of the integrated circuit for photomicrography. David DiGiacomo of Adobe has informed us that the Mostek 5017 chip has the capability of displaying the time with an alarm output feature as well. These chips were useful in table clocks, clock radios, and other appliances that featured clocks in the early 1970s.

In October 1950, cartoon illustrator Charles Schultz added the character Snoopy, a young beagle pup, to his comic strip Peanuts. Serving as lead personality Charlie Brown's independently-minded dog, Snoopy has played an integral role in the broad success of the cartoon and has a reserved a place in hearts of millions of fans. The silicon version of Snoopy illustrated above was discovered by Richard Piotter of New Ulm, Minnesota, who also loaned the 4-inch wafer (made by a 1980s-era semiconductor company named Trilogy) from which the image is derived.

This beautiful miniature rendition of the original Wright brothers biplane was discovered on a early 1980s era NCR Microelectronics memory integrated circuit, loaned to us by Greg O'Hara of Marietta, Georgia. This was the first "airplane" to actually fly on its own power with a human pilot. The wingspan of this silicon biplane is 200 micrometers, about 1/60,000 the size of the original (40 feet) plane that was powered by a four-cylinder, 12-horsepower gasoline engine. Orville and Wilbur built the plane in their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio (also home of the NCR fab that produced the chip) and shipped it to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for testing. On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright made the first flight, which lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Things haven't been the same since.

We spotted this medieval 300-micron long sword near the scribe line on a Motorola/IBM PowerPC 750, the microprocessor that is behind the wave of new "Pentium Killer" Macintosh G3 computers. At first we thought the sword represented the fact that the chip is on the cutting edge of RISC processor technology, but we now believe it to be a concealed weapon to keep the processor competitive in the life-threatening chip wars. Another reason for the presence of the sword icon may be that the G3 chips were code-named "Arthur" as in Camelot, and the sword represents Excalibur. In a massive international advertising campaign, Apple boasted this processor to be up to twice as fast as a comparable Intel microprocessor, meaning that a routine task requiring 30 seconds by the G3 Mac would take at least a minute on a Pentium II 400. Regardless of whether these sensational claims are true, the PowerPC 750 microprocessor has most certainly breathed new life into a once-struggling, but very popular platform.

We were first informed about this little canine doggie by Willy McAllister during discussions about the Hewlett-Packard Focus Math chip set. Willy told us that he placed the canine (standing about 20 microns high) sitting beside a fire hydrant on the Road Runner Focus Math chip to irritate the chief designer, Dan Zuras. He did this as a pun on the chip's part number (# 1AK9 - seen to the right of the fire hydrant), and intentionally hid the dog on the chip without informing Dan. But, as Dan tells us, what goes around comes around. The next set of chips contained a note written on Willy's chip that said "If you have any problems or questions about this chip call Willy McAllister at xxx-yyy-zzzz" giving Willy's home phone number.

This Tux probably gets the record for the smallest Tux image anywhere. It’s just 130 microns across and was found by on the corner of a silicon chip “of unknown type and function”.

One of America's favorite icons, the Playboy bunny, was discovered on an integrated circuit made in Germany by Siemens. The bunny rabbit head logo was originally designed by Art Paul, the first art director of Playboy Magazine, and has appeared on the cover of every issue (with the exception of the very first). Hugh Hefner, creator of the concept is quoted:

"I selected a rabbit as the symbol for the magazine because.... he offered an image that was frisky and playful. I put him in a tuxedo to add the idea of sophistication. There was another editorial consideration, too. Since both the 'New Yorker' and 'Esquire' use men as their symbols, I felt the rabbit would be distinctive; and the notion of a rabbit dressed up in formal evening attire struck me as charming, amusing, and right."

Courtesy to Silicon Zoo..

Hope all of you enjoyed this List..Feel free to leave your comments..

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