The future of integrated electronics is the future of electronics itself. The advantages of integration will bring about a proliferation of electronics, pushing this science into many new areas.
Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers—or at least terminals connected to a central computer—automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment. The electronic wristwatch needs only a display to be feasible today.
Computers will be more powerful and will be organized in completely different ways. For example, memories built of integrated electronics may be distributed throughout the machine instead of being concentrated in a central unit. In addition, the improved reliability made possible by integrated circuits will allow the construction of larger processing units. Machines similar to those in existence today will be built at lower costs and with faster turnaround.
Reduced cost is one of the big attractions of integrated electronics, and the cost advantage continues to increase as the technology evolves toward the production of larger and larger circuit functions on a single semiconductor substrate. For simple circuits, the cost per component is nearly inversely proportional to the number of components, the result of the equivalent piece of semiconductor in the equivalent package containing more components. But as components are added, decreased yields more than compensate for the increased complexity, tending to raise the cost per component. Thus there is a minimum cost at any given time in the evolution of the technology. At present, it is reached when fifty components are used per circuit. But the minimum is rising rapidly while the entire cost curve is falling. If we look ahead five years, a plot of costs suggests that the minimum cost per component might be expected in circuits with about one thousand components per circuit (providing such circuit functions can be produced in moderate quantities.) In 1970, the manufacturing cost per component can be expected to be only a tenth of the present cost.
The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year. Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least ten years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000.
I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer.
©1998 by the IEEE. Used with permission of the IEEE.
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