Scalability in ICs: What made Digital Dominate?

May 08, 2017, anysilicon

Semiconductor Industry revenue went to sparkling 350 Billion USD by 2014 (Mostly contributed by Intel). If you see the numbers 80 percent of the total share is from the digital market. Ever thought of why digitization have to be done though the signals we deal in our daily life (say our own voice or the one we transmit) is always analog.




Semiconductor industry started with researchers analyzing the circuit its applications and related  specifications they’re looking for based on hands-on calculations taking lumped components & their topologies to get things done.
The first ever IC made had just few transistors (Jacobi patented amplifier having 5 transistors) and now we have Intel’s 18-core xeon haswell-EP having 5.5 billion transistors way more to add in the list is IBM’s Storage Controller at 7.1 billion transistor count with 480 MB L4 cache in 2015. The question is from where it started for such a large scaling and compact devices!!


Communication is said to be true when the data which is transmitted is received in the same manner without any distortion and when we say data we talk about real life signals. Whatever we speak (communicate) is a signal with different pitch and pace (non-technically) normally referred as continues changing signal with different amplitude, phase and frequency. In this noisy environment there are many sources which are responsible for the degradation of the original signal. It is something inevitable mainly contributed by internal and external sources (environmental sound, temperature, cross-talk etc). There are possibilities where whatever is transmitted may not reach the other side (the exact manner). Hence noise margin of the analog circuits is likely to be considered as zero. Even a small glitch may result in improper and undefined behavior and will result in a big blow to the system. To overcome this limitations digital circuits came into limelight. Circuits following the set of rules (Static discipline) even with a level of noise will assure to return the same logic (Logic 0 or Logic 1) at the destination hence scalability was made possible. Scaling 70 percent of the dimensions to reduce half the area is where the industry is going from microns to few nano-meters (7nm, 14nm) now.


Just go through the ENIAC (world’s first computer) and Osborne 1 (first laptop) and its features and compare it with any of this generation’s smartphone people are crazy about, in the market now. You’ll definitely get to know what next is to come.



This is a guest post by Shiven Pandya