VLSI Design

VLSI Design

VLSI Design

Very large-scale integration was made possible with the wide adoption of the MOS transistor, originally invented by Mohamed M. Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959. General Microelectronics introduced the first commercial MOS integrated circuit in 1964. In the early 1970s, MOS integrated circuit technology allowed the integration of more than 10,000 transistors in a single chip. This paved the way for VLSI in the 1970s and 1980s, with tens of thousands of MOS transistors on a single chip (later hundreds of thousands, then millions, and now billions).

The first semiconductor chips held two transistors each. Subsequent advances added more transistors, and as a consequence, more individual functions or systems were integrated over time. The first integrated circuits held only a few devices, perhaps as many as ten diodes, transistors, resistors and capacitors, making it possible to fabricate one or more logic gates on a single device. Now known retrospectively as small-scale integration (SSI), improvements in technique led to devices with hundreds of logic gates, known as medium-scale integration (MSI). Further improvements led to large-scale integration (LSI), i.e. systems with at least a thousand logic gates. Current technology has moved far past this mark and today's microprocessors have many millions of gates and billions of individual transistors.

At one time, there was an effort to name and calibrate various levels of large-scale integration above VLSI. Terms like ultra-large-scale integration (ULSI) were used. But the huge number of gates and transistors available on common devices has rendered such fine distinctions moot. Terms suggesting greater than VLSI levels of integration are no longer in widespread use.

In 2008, billion-transistor processors became commercially available. This became more commonplace as semiconductor fabrication advanced from the then-current generation of 65 nm processes. Current designs, unlike the earliest devices, use extensive design automation and automated logic synthesis to lay out the transistors, enabling higher levels of complexity in the resulting logic functionality. Certain high-performance logic blocks like the SRAM (static random-access memory) cell, are still designed by hand to ensure the highest efficiency.


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