Browse Definitions:
Definition

microchip art

Microchip art is a microscopic non-functioning drawing impressed on the surface of the design mask used in the production of microchip s. The art, which grew out of the tradition of having chip designers "sign" their work, is created by etching into the upper metallic layers of the chip in an unused corner of the chip mask.

Because microchip art is too small to see with the human eye, its existence was not widely known until 1998 when photographer Michael Davidson accidently stumbled on an example while photographing the geometric patterns of a microchip. Davidson, who makes his living photographing ordinary objects under a high-power Nikon optical microscope, was surprised to find the children's book character "Waldo" hiding among the thousands of square microns of circuitry he was looking at. (The objective of the "Where's Waldo?" books is for children to find the Waldo character who is hidden somewhere in each page's illustration.) Davidson, who at first thought the image was a fluke, began to closely examine other microchips under his microscope and found what writer Michael Stroh has described as "the Lascaux Cave of the computer industry".

Since his initial discovery, Davidson has found and photographed a wide variety of examples of microchip art, including intricate sketches of hummingbirds, locomotives, and buffalo. After posting his microphotographs on a Web site, Davidson was pleased to have many of the chip designers contact him about their work and explain the symbolism behind the chosen design. For example, a bulldozer that appears on a chip designed in 1980 by Synertek was a mystery until it was learned that the chip was used in heavy equipment electronic monitoring systems.

Microchip art is frowned upon in some corporations, notably Intel, because the software used to create chips is programmed to spot design flaws, and, as microchips become more complex, the possibility exists that poorly executed microchip art could pose production problems. Chip designers, however, compare microchip art to the " Easter eggs" that programmers leave behind and promise that somehow creative minds will continue to "make their mark" upon their work.

The Smithsonian has a large collection of chip art.
This was last updated in April 2009

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

SearchSecurity

  • computer worm

    A computer worm is a type of malicious software program whose primary function is to infect other computers while remaining ...

  • black hat

    Black hat refers to a hacker who breaks into a computer system or network with malicious intent.

  • copyright

    Copyright is a legal term describing ownership of control of the rights to the use and distribution of certain works of creative ...

SearchHealthIT

  • population health management (PHM)

    Population health management (PHM) is a discipline within the healthcare industry that studies and facilitates care delivery ...

  • ICD-10-PCS

    The International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, Procedure Coding System (ICD-10-PCS) is a U.S. cataloging system for...

  • U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)

    The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the largest biomedical library in the world.

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

  • mass notification system (MNS)

    A mass notification system is a platform that sends one-way messages to inform employees and the public of an emergency.

SearchStorage

  • hybrid hard drive (HHD)

    A hybrid hard drive (HHD), sometimes known as a solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD), is a mass storage device that combines a ...

  • USB flash drive

    A USB flash drive -- also known as a stick, thumb or pen drive -- is a plug-and-play portable storage device that uses flash ...

  • open source storage

    Open source storage is data storage software developed in a public, collaborative manner that permits the free use, distribution ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • RRAM or ReRAM (resistive RAM)

    RRAM or ReRAM (resistive random access memory) is a form of nonvolatile storage that operates by changing the resistance of a ...

  • JEDEC

    JEDEC is a global industry group that develops open standards for microelectronics.

  • M.2 SSD

    An M.2 SSD is a solid-state drive (SSD) that conforms to a computer industry specification written for internally mounted storage...

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close