The microelectronics revolution

Evolution of micro-electronics

Micro-electronics has brought about a second revolution, following that produced by it's predecessor the ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator) which used to consist of vacuum tubes. Following this, was the invention of the transistor, a small, low-power amplifier which also gave a boost to the computer industry due to its small size relative to that of a vacuum tube. However, since the layout of the components of the electronic devices on a single board using wiring produced some limitations whilst trying to downsize, Geoffrey W.A. Dummer (a radar scientist) decided to connect them on a single wafer which is referred to as an integrated circuit which was then built by Jack Kilby. This means that the whole circuit will be manufactured in the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material. This method of integration was an enormous improvement over the manual assembly of the circuits using electronic components.

Integrated circuits were then however made possible by experimental discoveries which proved that such semiconductor devices could actually perform the functions of the vacuum tubes.

Nowadays, integrated circuits are used in almost all of the electronic equipment in use and they have revolutionized the world of electronics as stated by the author of the site below. "Little did this group of onlookers know that Kilby's invention was about to revolutionize the electronics industry."(

Gordon Moore stated that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuit had always doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Thus he predicted that this would continue to happen in the forseable future. In the past few years tha pace has slowed down a bit, but data density has still been doubling every 1.5years..

The initial approach was an attempt to miniaturize conventional components. Another approach was 'molecular engineering'. The example of the transistor as a substitute for the vacuum tube suggested that similar substitutes could be devised. In other words, that new materials could be discovered or developed that would, by their solid-state nature, allow electronic functions other than amplification to be performed within a monolithic solid. These attempts were largely unsuccessful but they publicised the demand for miniaturisation and the potential rewards for the successful development of some form of microelectronics. A large segment of the technical community was on the lookout for a solution of the problem because it was clear that a ready market awaited the successful inventor.

Microelectronics is nowadays considered to be the cornerstone of the computing revolution, the communications revolution and the consumer electronics revolution.

The integrated circuit's mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors.

"In last 30 years, computer performance per dollar has improved more than a million fold!"

"Full automated machines with an artificial intelligence superior to the human mind will do most of the work" Science, vol.195(18th March 1977). Electronic games and toys provide a good illustration of the power of the microprocessor and the smartness that can be added to the product. When the first electronic games were produced they used simple fixed-logic circuits and hence were only capable of giving one or two types of game and these were of limited interest. With the introduction of the microprocessor it became possible for the various facilities of the game to be altered at will. Not only can a large range of games be provided, they can also be much ore involved and the degree of fiddiculty for one or more players can be progressively increased as te players become more skilled. It is claimed that the most difficult level of these games, the 'chess challenger'which is bult around a fairly unsophisticated japans microprocessor, is equivalent to a very good club player!.

Electronic phrase book allows user to key in word/phrase and it will translate it for him and spoken. This has led to automatic speech recognition. The impact og this development will ofc couse be much wider than just electronic phrase books. The whole concept of copuer will change when the barrier of the keyboard input is removed.

Microprocessors are nowadays used in sewing machines, dish washers, washing machines, telephones, cookers, owvens, controllers for heat systems,televisions, cameras, CPUs, traffic lights, car ignition systems, accounting systems, cash terminals, banking terminals, library indexing systems and many more.

Microprocessors and microcomputer chips have been produced by the semi-conductor manufacturing companies.

Used for gamma counter .

Patient monitoring systems in hospitals.

Computerized X-Ray scanners.

Ultrasonic scanner used instead of the X-RAY scanner.(safer)

Evolution of nano-electronics

With vacuum tubes there was a big problem because of their bulkiness but integrated circuits managed to solve the problem since they are very small. This brought about the miniaturization of electronics and computers. Here is when the world really got smaller, this is when mobile phones became a possibility and when the electronic industry became very success full. These devices became affordable by the common person and were even being implemented into other devices for multi purpose use. Today chips are being put in virtually anything, even a running shoes has got a chip in it which is programmed to tell you what speed you were going at, heart beat and if you were placing your feet right.

Influence of evolution on society

Man has repeatedly demonstrated a healthy suspicion of new inventions and has been generally reticent about accepting new ideas. In fact, they are usually unaccepted by the present generations and are then accepted and adopted by the following ones.

However in the 9th century, the idea of progress in society through science took shape and the connection of progress with science has become fundamental to the way in which the Western World has developed ever since.

The development of machines through the 19th century resulted in a very different society from that based on agriculture which it replaced. As discussed earlier on, there were objections to the introduction of new machinery and the Luddites are well known, even today, for their physical attempts to prevent progress. Their progress, however, did not succeed and after only one or two generations there was general acceptance of the new machinery.

The reason for returning to the first industrial revolution is to draw a parallel with the new technology of the twentieth century, microelectronics. Once again man is faced with the prospect of dramatic changes in his working pattern yet the potential for progress is great. Although microelectronics has been around for a number of years and has found widespread applications, only the tip of the iceberg is so far evident and below the surface lies the real potential. This will be realized over the next decade and beyond.

During the next few years, microelectronics will pervade almost every aspect of society. Similarly to what happened in the first revolution, society has

In the first industrial revolution, machines were being used to overcome the limitations of the human physique. This had changed the society at the time from a rural one to an urban and affluent one. This has also touched off a chain of technological innovations that transformed not only production but also transportation, communication, warfare, the size of human populations, and the natural environment.

In the second industrial revolution, microelectronics started being used to overcome the limitations of the human brain. But, in this case, most of the people seem to be more apprehensive about the development and impact of microelectronics. However, it is not plain whether this apprehension is simply fear of the unknown or whether there might be something qualitatively different about this particular development?

The first widespread impact of microelectronics on society was the development of the radio and the television in the 1920s and 1930s. These produce little threat to the existing industrial practices because they were directed towards leisure and improving communications. Thus, they were accepted fairly rapidly and without much social discontent since there was no change in the types of jobs available.

For the past few years, the development of the computer and its microelectronic equivalent, the microprocessor has been providing the greatest challenge to society. The readily available computing power at very low costs is allowing many new products to be developed. This has made high level of automations possible which involved replacement of the decision-making role of the human operator by a simple electronics circuit.

"Products are becoming smart, being able to make intelligent decisions, performing calculations and memorizing results for future use in addition to their usual functions." (The Impact of Micro-Electronics Technology - Mervyna A.Jack).

However, all of these useful products are being a threat to the human resource. Many of the traditional job positions are becoming redundant and thus it may be causing some unemployment in the long run. On the other hand, new jobs with a much higher remunerations are being offered. But as stated earlier on, society tends to reject progress because it is constantly trying to prevent change. Thus, most of the people spend their time fighting to secure their present job rather than thinking of ways of how to make themselves suitable for the new jobs available.

Nonetheless, the new generations seem to be accepting this change much more than their descendants did and much more of them are studying science.

With these technologies implemented in companies, some workers can work from the comfort of their home and avoid waisting time travelling to and from work. In this way more quality time can be spent with family and relatives.

Due to these benefits, some argue that it was society itself that triggered many of the advancements in technology. For example, the internet is constantly getting faster because of the way people depend on it, mobile phones have advanced so much because people wanted portability in everything and thus it was ingenious for the designer to include a camera and wifi.

E.g electronic watch rather than the old fashioned ones. ( also calculates the date and ay of the week and without making mistakes in leap years and months)(allows stopwatch)(use alarms)More elaborate watches also includes complete scientific calculators in them). Other ideas such as heart rate monitors and pulse rate indicators are being considered.(athletes, stressed businessmen, medical practitioner). This may in a few year's time, take the role of the telephone handset and provide a more convenient remote communication system. Engineers can now use the electronic micrometer to measure precisely over a range of 2.5cm.

Electronic payphones now include a digital display which shows the cost of the call. Nowadays, microelectronics can also be used to identify a fault because most electronics include a built-in finding capability. Thus in this way maintenance costs are reduced and things are mre straight forward for the engineer.

Apart from the teaching computer techniques as a curriculum subject, an interesting question is just how far the technology will feature in the teaching process itself. Microelectronics has become widely used for programmed learning exercises and will be used quite generally for a wide range of subjects.

The major problem in the short term is producing the required number of electronic engineers and technicians to allow industry to develop along this path.

Influence of evolution on the economy

Although progress usually brings about loss of jobs, it is also believed to help the economy.

"Modern technology has positioned us in the midst of a new revolution. Together, nanotechnology and microelectronics are the engines of modern commerce, and are directly or indirectly enabling numerous innovative global changes. Whenever there is advancement in their performances, a dawn emerges in the global economy bringing improvements in all areas of human endeavors." (Nanotechnology and Microelectronics: Global Diffusion, Economics and Policy - Ndubuisi Ekekwe (Johns Hopkins University, USA).

New improved watches, computerized games like chess which attempts to simulate how human players thing and anticipate future moves, electronic language translator and the many other gadgets that are being invented and developed provides more choice on the market. Therefore, people tend to spend more money in this sector because they will want to try the product. Thus there will be more sales and hence a higher turnover means an increase in the taxes collected and more money in the business man's spending pocket. In this way, all the sectors will benefit and consequently the economy will enjoy a boost.

When it comes to sectors which are not directly dependent on this market, one can still see a significant amount of progress. Some examples are ATMs(no need to queue, thus less clerks), accounting firm (use computers for their book keeping, thus needing less accounts clerks).

The enormous investment in the technology, however, is now paying off and many products are appearing. Such is the rate of growth, indeed, that the semiconductor companies now are finding it difficult to keep up with the demand. However, new product developments are limited either by the generation of good ideas pr by the supply of suitably trained people with the skills to implement them.

It has generated a next generation of jobs.

With the growing automation of industry and hence the reduced requirement for human physical skills, the attention of humans is being directed towards the service industries.

The rapid advance of microelectronics technology makes it increasingly difficult to predict the projected lifetime of existing jobs. The view that technological advances will create redundancies need not necessarily be associated with the view that such technological advances will create unemployment.

History has shown, through the agricultural and industrial revolutions tht, although redundancies were created and employment profiles changed, from primary employment in fishing and agriculture to secondary employment in factories and engineering and presently to tertiary employment in the service indusstries and commerce, the overall national employment levels have re-qualised in the face of such redundancies.Thus, although present high technology will inevitably create redundancies, it Is to be anticipated that on a national scale these redudancies will be equalized by a new new trend towards quaternary employment and the main quaternary industries can be anticipated as being education and leisure.

Manufacturing industry will obvoulsy continue to produce the products that society needs. Microelectronics can be brought to the aid of manufacture as previously discusses, and it will generate new products in its own right. It will produce a change in skill requirements, which provides a challenge both tot the management and to the education system. Talk about jobs lost and other gained and the need for engineers and software developers.

The direct economic effects of introducing computers as numerical calculators and decision makers are like hthose of introducing any new form of capital that raises productivity and also improves the quality of the product. The main aim of introducing the computer is to mechanize existing clerical operations thus reducing most of the usual clerical costs. An even stronger ststement can be made about the systems effects of cost-saving technological innovations. Computers requires a lower ratio of labour to capital than previous methods. The rate of technological change depends both upon the rate of discovery of new innovations and upon the availability of capital to turn them into bricks and steel.

It has brought about alienation. "Today we frequently hear the claim that computers and automation dehumanize work and that dehumanization , in turn, causes alienationfrom work and society." (The microelectronics Revolution - Tom Forester).

From an economic standpoint, the modern computer is simply the most recent of a long line of new technologies that increase productivity and cause a gradual shift from manufacturing to service employment. The empirical evidence provides no support for the claim sometimes made that the computer "mechanizes and dehumanizes"work. Perhaps the greatest significance of the computer lies in its impact on Man's view of himself. No longer accepting the geocentric view of the universe, he now begins to learn that mind, toom is a phenomenon of nature, explainable in terms of simple mechanisms. Thus the computer aids him to obey, for the first time, the ancient injunction: "Know thyself".


  • The Microelectronics Revolution - Basil Blackwell
  • The Impact of Micro-Electronics Technology - Mervyna A.Jack
  • Intorduction to Nanoelectronics - VladimirV.Mitin,Wiatcheslav A. Kochelap, Michael A.Stroscio
  • The Nanotechnology Revolution - K. Eric Drexler, Chris Peterson, and Gayle Pergamit

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