The Evolution Of Microelectronics Information Technology Essay

The technological progress of the past decade has played an important role in the advancement of modern society by continuously supplying better quality goods which are accessible to the mass markets. Innovation has shaped our society as we know it which would otherwise be completely different – from simple shopping to the achievements of modern medicine, from the hugely successful entertainment industry to the highly sophisticated education system – none of these would have been possible without the solid backbone of modern technology. And technology would not exist if micro-electronics was not the highly developed and researched science it is today. A mere 60 years ago, no one would have been able to predict the impact of emerging technologies on worldwide business and economics – few would have fathomed the concept of the Internet or even the remote possibility of wireless mobile telephony.

The latest breakthrough in technological research is that of nano-electronics. Even if while writing this, nano-electronics is still a largely uncovered science, the odds are that over the following years it will have the potential to realign society, business and economics. Nano-electronics at the consumer level will touch all aspects of our economy, from wages to employment, purchasing, pricing, capital, exchange rates, currencies, markets, supply and demand. Nano-electronics may well drive economic prosperity or at the least be an enabling factor in productivity and global competitiveness.

The Evolution of Micro-electronics.

Figure 1: Evolution of Micro-electronics

The intensive effort by professionals in the electronics campus to increase the reliability and performance of products while reducing their size and cost has led to the results that hardly anyone would have predicted but which we have all come to expect. In-fact many think that electronics made a revolution in human history and shaped our future in a way it would never have been possible. Through the years we saw the evolution of electronic components which decreased in size while performing increasingly complex electronic functions at ever higher speeds. It all began with the development of the transistor.

Prior to the invention of the transistor in 1947, its function in an electronic circuit could be performed only by a vacuum tube.

Vacuum tubes were found to have several built-in problems. The main problem with these tubes was that they generated a lot of heat, required a warm-up time from 1 to 2 minutes, and required hefty power supply voltages of 300 volts dc and more. Another problem was that two identical tubes had different output and operational characteristics therefore designers were required to produce circuits that could work with any tube of a particular type. This meant that additional components were often required to tune the circuit to the output characteristics required for the tube used.

Figure 2: A typical vacuum-tube chassis

The first transistors had no striking advantage in size over the smallest tubes and they were more costly. The largest advantage the transistor had over the best vacuum tubes was that it consumed much less power than a vacuum tube did. Besides they also provided greater reliability and longer life. However, it took years to demonstrate other advantages of the transistor over vacuum tubes.

The advent of microelectronic circuits has not, for the most part, changed the nature of the basic functional units: microelectronic devices were still made up of transistors, resistors, capacitors, and similar components. The major difference is that all these elements and their interconnections are now fabricated on a single substrate in a single series of operations.

Several key developments were required before the exciting potential of integrated circuits could be realized.

The development of microelectronics depended on the invention of techniques for making the various functional units on a crystal of semiconductor materials. In particular, a growing number of functions have been given over to circuit elements that perform best: transistors. Several kinds of microelectronic transistors have been developed, and for each of them families of associated circuit elements and circuit patterns have evolved.

The bipolar transistor was invented in 1948 by John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain and William Shockley of the Bell Telephone Laboratories. In bipolar transistors charge carriers of both polarities are involved in their operation. They are also known as junction transistors. The NPN and PNP transistors make up the class of devices called junction transistors.

A second kind of transistor was actually conceived almost 25 years before the bipolar devices, but its fabrication in quantity did not become practical until the early 1960’s. This is the field-effect transistor. The one that is common in microelectronics is the metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor. The term refers to the three materials employed in its construction and is abbreviated MOSFET.

The two basic types of transistor, bipolar and MOSFET, divide microelectronic circuits into two large families. Today the greatest density of circuit elements per- chip can be achieved with the newer MOSFET technology.

Today, an individual integrated circuit on a chip can now embrace more electronic elements than most complex pieces of electronic equipment that could be built in 1950.

In the first 15 years since the inception of integrated circuits, the number of transistors that could be placed on a single chip has doubled every year. The 1980 state of the art circuit is about 70K density per chip.

The first generations of the commercially produced microelectronic devices are now referred to as small-scale integrated circuits (SSI). They included a few gates. The circuitry defining a logic array had to be provided by external conductors. Devices with more than about 10 gates on a chip but fewer than about 200 are medium-scale integrated circuits (MSI). The upper boundary of medium-scale integrated circuits technology is marked by chips that contain a complete arithmetic and logic unit (ALU). This unit accepts two operands as inputs and can perform any one of a dozen or so operations on them. The operations include addition, subtraction, comparison, logical “and” and “or” and shifting one bit to the left or right.

A large-scale integrated circuit (LSI) contains tens of thousands of elements, yet each element is so small that the complete circuit is typically less than a quarter of an inch on a side. Integrated circuits are evolving from large-scale to very-large-scale (VLSI) and wafer-scale integration (WSI).

Since the transistor was invented over 50 years ago, the trend in electronics has been to create smaller and smaller products using fewer chips of greater complexity and smaller ‘feature’ sizes. The development of integrated circuits and storage devices has continued to progress at an exponential rate; at present it takes two or three years for each successive halving of component size. Nanoelectronics refer to the use of nanotechnology on electronic components, especially transistors. Although the term nanotechnology is generally defined as utilizing technology less than 100 nm in size, nanoelectronics often refer to transistor devices that are so small that interactions and quantum mechanical properties need to be studied extensively. As a result, present transistors fall under this category, even though these devices are manufactured under 65 nm or 45 nm technology. Nanoelectronics are sometimes considered as disruptive technology because present candidates are significantly different from traditional transistors. Some of these candidates include: hybrid molecular/semiconductor electronics, one dimensional nanotubes/nanowires, or advanced molecular electronics. Although all of these hold promise for the future, they are still under development and will most likely not be used for manufacturing any time soon.

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Economical and Social Impact of Micro-Electronics and Nano-Electronics.

Fears of massive unemployment have greeted technological changes ever since the Industrial Revolution. Far from destroying jobs, however, rapid technological advance generally has created many new important opportunities. In the quarter-century, the industrial economics were flooded with new technologies while at the same time the amount of unemployed people has drastically been lowered. Lately with the help of new findings in the area of microelectronics and nanoelectronics they will have a fundamental impact on both the numbers and types of jobs in the industrial worlds in the following years. The microelectronic revolution already affected employment in enterprises ranging from steelworks to any other company and will continue to affect every aspect of work.

Although microelectronic and nanoelectronic controls will not sweep through the industrial world overnight, most experts expect them to be firmly established in production processes. Set against these concerns, however, it’s a fact that nanoelectronic technologies will increase productivity over a broad range of industrial enterprises. In theory this should lead to enhanced economic growth, which in turn will translate into new roles. Put crudely, the extra production made possible by technological changes coincided with rising wealth and increased demand for manufactured goods and services, a combination that leads to high rates of economic growth and near-full employment.

As is well known, combination of technological changes and economic pressures led to a sharp reduction in the world’s agricultural work force over the past half-century. In every major industrial country the agricultural labor force now represents less than 30 per cent of the working population. While the number of agricultural workers has decreased, however, output has risen substantially in general due to manufacturing firms which thus have replaced the workforce needed.

At the same time, output, while fluctuating in tune with recessions, has increased. The phenomenon of jobless growth (growing in manufacturing but decreasing or maintaining the same level of employees) has now become established in the goods producing companies, this because mainly through technological change. Underlying this trend is the fact that investment in new production technologies has sought largely to streamline production processes rather than to expand output at a time demand is low and there is a high average wage rate.

While these jobs and investment patterns have been developing, employment in the tertiary sector of finance, insurance and government services has been expanding rapidly. It is important to note that it is the productivity increases in the manufacturing industries that have themselves created the economic growth that in turn led to the increased demand for the services of the tertiary sector. This transition from agriculture to industry, and more recently to tertiary sector employment, has not been smooth or even.

First, it is clear that microelectronic technologies will’ create jobs in those industries which manufacture electronic products. There are billions of money which are being lavished on mobile phones, electronic gadgets, computers and other microelectronic products which have spawned a whole industry that did not even exist a decade ago. It was found that about 10 million people are now employed in the electronics industry in the United States only.

Through research and technological advancements micro-processors are much more efficient and cost effective that these are being used in almost everything. Micro-processors nowadays can be found in washing machines or incredibly enough also in toys, where years ago one would need to be very wealthy to have a micro-processor working and the phenomenal speeds which they work now. The use of microprocessors in manufacturing industries has essentially intensified the jobless growth that has been taking place in industrial countries in recent years. One should also note that the use of computers and other intelligent machines will lead to increased employment in some areas such as the growing industry of e-business. Today almost every person of the world bought something from the Internet, may it be clothes, electronic products, or any other thing. This industry nowadays is producing so much money that is very difficult to quantify.

Computer programming, for example, is a labor-intensive activity that is a likely source of many thousands of new jobs. Demand for programmers is already outstripping supply, and some analysts have even suggested that this shortage could constrain growth in the use of computers in the coming years. But in most other areas of the tertiary sector, microelectronics is likely to lead to slower rates of employment growth or even to job losses. In areas such as insurance and banking, which arc labor intensive occupations that rely primarily on printed paper for their transactions, the application of electronic technology could have a major impact. Nowadays everything in the office is automated .

The introduction of word processors, computers, and emails is also another aspect which has affected the economy both from a positive side and from the negative side. In today’s offices only a few clerks are needed for what used to be a 50 person job in the 1960’s like for example, a word processing task which is done using a computer and which has indeed resulted in unemployment., The positive side is that companies are much more efficient and communication is much more reliable. A simple example is a clerk who is employed with a company which deals with shipping of goods. Nowadays with the help of VPN’s (virtual private networks) the clerk connects to his company’s server through the internet and can work easily from home. This would alleviate electricity costs for the company as the employee is working from home, while the employee is comfortable working from home. Another simple example how reliable communication has advanced through technological research is by the use of emails. Today one sends an email to any recipient with some simple keystrokes. In turn the recipient receives this email in relatively a few minutes, and if there is a failure the system automatically notifies the sender that a communication has failed and he needs to resend it again. When postal mail was used it was a common thing that mail was lost and neither the sender nor the receiver would know where the letter is and if it has been delivered. The corporate computing environment has witnessed dramatic changes in the last few years, with a shift from rapid expansion of IT infrastructure in support of growing business needs, to carefully managing existing assets and investing in new strategic technologies that provide specific competitive advantages. Information technology managers today are challenged with providing more services to more users, meeting ever-increasing performance expectations, storing and managing exponentially increasing amounts of data, better protecting the network, and ensuring system stability-all with limited possibility to expand data centres because of shrinking budgets

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The advance in microelectronics and nanoelectronics affects not only the number of jobs in industrial countries, but also the type of jobs which will be available. The early use of robots on assembly lines has largely been dangerous and dirty. But as automation extends into design shops and machine rooms, highly skilled occupations were affected. And, at the other end of the sale, the use of computers and storage area networks have eliminated many filing and routine clerical jobs. Microelectronics thus has the potential, to decrease skill requirements in some jobs and increase them in others.

Another example where micro-electronics has succeeded is in the area of robotization. The main purpose of robotization is certainly to improve the productivity of manufacturing processes and the qua1ity of products, which help increase competitiveness of produced goods in the market and bring in gains for the companies. From a broader view point, the increase in process productivity may accelerate growth of these industries and then contribute to the growth of the national economy.

The preceding discussion indicates that robotization gives rise to reduction in employment in manufacturing processes, which will be at least partly covered by expansion of the market in the long run. It is obvious that seriousness of the employment impact will be greatly eased by the latter effects. Therefore we should estimate how much these effects will be, and if possible in what time spans these effects will emerge. However, it should be noticed that the compensation is only to a certain degree even if it takes over the first type impact in number. The job pattern in a factory or a company will change and transfer of labour force from the jobs for which robots are introduced to those created by market expansion is unavoidable. Another type of economic impact of robotization is as described before impact on the international market. Expansion of exports or at least the reduction of imports of manufacturing goods due to increase in their competitiveness in the international market gives positive impacts on the national economy, but in many cases with the sacrifice of worsening trade balance of partner countries. It means that the competition in the international market is likely to be a zero sum or a1most a zero sum game at least in the short run. All developed countries are certain1y members of the game, new1y industrialized countries or emerging countries will be more sensitive to changes in market competitiveness of member countries.

Though the microelectronic revolution already impacted most of the countries in the world, nanoelectronics is likely to have a major impact on the numbers and types of jobs available in the industrial world over the next few decades, every expert who has studied the subject has reached the same conclusion: More jobs will be lost in those countries that do not pursue the technology vigorously than in those that do: Because nanoelectronics will enhance productivity so greatly, the industries that move swiftly to adopt the technology will have a competitive advantage in international markets.

As the global economy continues to be transformed by new technology, there will always be need for talent, intellectual property, capital and technical expertise. We see many of these factors responsible for shaping how nations today compete, interact and trade. Technical innovations will increasingly shape economies and market robustness. Technology will continue to drive global and domestic GDP. Competition will be fueled increasingly by fast breaking innovations in technology. Today this is obvious as rapid technological changes in telecommunications, life sciences, and the Internet demonstrates the emergence of entirely new economic and business realities. If the proliferation of today’s technologies to form new business models is any indication of the speed and power of change in the economy, future nano-technologies will make for an even more dramatic shift.

Rates of progress in microelectronics suggest that in about a decade 80% of the people in the world will possess a notebook-size computer with the capacity of a large computer of today.

The future increase in capacity and decrease in cost of microelectronic devices has not only given rise to compact and powerful hardware but also bring qualitative changes in the way human beings and computers interact. Computing and storage capacity are many times that of past microcomputers: tens of millions of basic operations per second manipulate the equivalent of several thousand printed pages of information.

The personal computer can be regarded as the newest example of human mediums of communication. Various means of storing, retrieving and manipulating information have been in existence since human beings began to talk. Although digital computers were originally designed to do arithmetic operations, their ability to simulate the details of any descriptive model means that the computer, viewed as a medium, can simulate any other medium if the methods of simulation are sufficiently well described

With the technological advance in nanoelectronics multi-core processors represent a major evolution in computing technology. This important development is coming at a time when businesses and consumers are beginning to require the benefits offered by these processors due to the exponential growth of digital data and the globalization of the Internet. Multi-core processors will eventually become the primary computing model because they offer performance and productivity benefits beyond the capabilities of today’s single-core processors. Multi-core processors will also play a central role in driving important advancements in PC security and virtualization technologies that are being developed to provide greater protection, resource utilization, and value for the commercial computing market.

One particularly frustrating process is compiling software after the code has been written. Compiling is notorious for overloading computer processor capacity and causing, in many cases, lengthy development cycles. During these periods, software engineers are at the mercy of their computer resources. In many cases, the speed at which software code is being compiled results in greater productivity for the programmer. Overall, that translates into a more efficient software development cycle.

Consumers, too, will have access to greater performance than ever before, which will significantly expand the utility of their home PCs and digital media computing systems. Multi-core processors will also have the benefit of offering performance without having to increase power requirements, which will translate into greater performance per watt. Placing two or more powerful computing cores on a single processor opens up a world of important new possibilities. The next generation of software applications will likely be developed using multi-core processors because of the performance and efficiency they can deliver compared to single core processors. Whether these applications help professional animation companies produce more realistic movies faster for less money, or create breakthrough ways to make a PC more natural and intuitive, the widespread availability of hardware using multi-core processor technology will forever change the computing universe.

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Computer processor design has evolved at a constant pace for the last 20 years. The proliferation of computers into the mass market and the tasks we ask of them continue to push the need for more powerful processors. The market requirement for higher performing processors is linked to the demand for more sophisticated software applications. E-mail, for instance, which is now used globally, was only a limited and expensive technology 10 years ago. Today, software applications span everything from helping large corporations better manage and protect their business-critical data and networks to allowing PCs in the home to edit home videos, manipulate digital photographs, and burn downloaded music to CDs. Tomorrow, software applications might create real-world simulations that are so vivid it will be difficult for people to know if they are looking at a computer monitor or out the window; however, advancements like this will only come with significant performance increases nd inexpensive computer technologies. Multi-core processors have the potential to run applications more efficiently than single-core processors-giving users the ability to keep working even while running the most processor intensive tasks in the background, like searching a database, rendering a 3D image, ripping and burning music files to a CD, or downloading videos off the Web.

For years, independent software vendors delivered imaginative and robust solutions to solve real-world problems, benefiting both businesses and general consumers. Businesses rely on constantly improving software for automating exceedingly complex processes, including those dealing with e-commerce and information management. Consumers are doing more complex tasks on their PCs, including manipulating digital photographs and media, and running cutting-edge games. The sheer number of new applications, and the exciting functionality they provide, is a credit to software engineers. However, in their quest to design more sophisticated applications, while at the same time making them easier to use and more cost-effective, these professionals are regularly pushing the limits of current processor capacity. Multi-core processors will solve many of the challenges currently facing software designers by delivering significant performance increases at a time when they need it most. With increasing competition and market demands, engineers need to provide more functionality into their designs in less time. Whether enhancing and updating large, enterprise applications or developing the next generation PC game, software developers are acutely aware of the computational requirements during each phase of creation.

In additional to what we have read already, nano-electronics affects also the academic part in our society, the knowledge and competencies required for working in the field of future nanoelectronics which are evolvingvery fast. At both ends (material/devices and circuits/systems) there is the need to renew and redefine the content of the knowledge portfolio that colleges provide to students or to company employees for continuous education.

Micro-electronics and nano-electronics not only allow us to work comfortably or to enjoy high quality videos but it helps us to travel as well. The old 1950s vision was to have a car which would drive without the need to touch the steering wheel or that it would have everything which a person would dream about. Nowadays almost every car uses microcontrollers in order to control the car from many different ways like controlling the safety of the car itself. In fact most modern cars have embedded the system of traction control which has a microcontroller which constantly monitors the traction and if there is any fluctuation of loss in traction it will quickly compute the necessary adjustments which are needed to regain traction. Apart from this many modern cars incorporate automatic sensors which in turn are all adjusted, monitored and switch on or off by a controller. It is normal as well to see cars which are switched on simply by pressing a button from the key itself, which is indeed a breakthrough in car’s history.

Micro-electronics has also effected our lifestyles in so many other ways, making our everyday routine a little more comfortable.. For example, nowadays it is easy to find a complete kitchen system which enables us to set the oven to a pre-defined temperature and cook our meal while we surf the internet or perhaps communicate with our friends through social networks which have become very popular. Other home appliances, like washing machines or electric water heaters, can be set in motion using the internet, from practically any location. Micro-electronics has also contributed effectively in administering the use of electricity more efficiently. Today’s appliances incorporate sensors and controllers which continuously monitor energy consumption and if there is anything which is not being used in-turn they will turn it off in order to consume less power.

The above examples are proof that research in the area of micro-electronics and nano-electronics has contributed hugely to change our society in many positive ways. Teleworking is slowly becoming a reality for many people, enabling them to commute from their own homes, eliminating the need to travel to work, thus giving parents more flexibility. Communication has been made easier because of better telephony as well as more advanced mobile technologies. Scientists are able to carry out research using extremely sophisticated and intelligent machines which was only possible with advancement in the micro-electronics and nano-electronics fields.

Conclusion

The debate about the social implications of microelectronics and nanoelectronics is ongoing. The past has shown us how the switch from old technologies to micro-electronics has affected all aspects of life, from the standards of living to employment, from a more organized social environment to the manifestation of socio-cultural problems such as modern depression, alienation, helplessness and growing resistance against changes.

Mankind is now on the brink of another major change – that of changing over from using microelectronics to the newer technology of nanoelectronics and this implies another impact on everything we know. This time, influences on employment will be profound but difficult to predict, because different sectors are affected differently. Nanoelectronics will have a significant impact on the semiconductor industry. All electronics related items like memory devices, storage devices, display devices, and communication devices will be swept away by the nanoelectronics wave. From transistors to the computers they fit in, every single device will undergo transformation. Nano-scale devices will enable the creation of a new world of innovative products, such as biosensors, molecular memory, spin based electronic products, and flexible and light-weight photovoltaic cells.

The change is inevitable. The future is nano-electronics.

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