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Microelectronics and Nanoelectronics are subfields of electronics which are specific to small scale electronics which contain millions of components in a single module. These modules are normally referred to as Integrated Circuits. The size of integrated circuits has decreased rapidly whilst the number of components in the circuit has been increasing rapidly.
Before the invention of Transistors electronic circuits where made using Vacuum Tubes however these where very inefficient as they generated a lot of heat and where generally unreliable and in fact ENIAC, the first computer ever built, according to Presper Eckert (co-inventor of ENIAC) "we had a tube fail about every two days and we could locate the problem within 15 minutes." (Randall, 2006) This combined with the fact that the tubes were quite large meant that the computers that used vacuum tubes ended up being huge and required a lot of electricity to operate. In fact according to Eckert ENIAC had "voltage regulators to provide 150 kilowatts of regulated supply" (Randall, 2006) which is between 150 and 300 times the power requirements of a modern computer which is considerably more powerful in terms of what it can do. The large size of these devices as well as the complexity of their wiring meant that they could not be mass manufactured and hence they were expensive.
With the invention of transistors and later on integrated circuits the size of the devices decreased drastically and since these could be mass manufactured the cost decreased as well thus making the computer and modern electronic devices available to the masses.Transistors
Transistors were invented in the late 1950s at AT & T's Bell Laboratories by John Bardeen, Waltair Brattain and William Shockley. They shared the Nobel Prize in Physics 1956 for their work on semiconductors and their discovery of transistors. Transistors were a very important development in the field of microelectronics as they had a number of advantages on vacuum tubes particularly:
- They are much smaller than vacuum tubes as well as being lighter
- The manufacturing process can be automated thus reducing manufacturing costs
- They can work with low voltages and so can be used in battery operated devices
- They generate less heat and are generally more efficient
- They have a longer life and thus they are more reliable. This means that the devices can run longer without requiring maintenance
- They are not affected by vibrations and shocks
Effects on Society and Economy
- Randall, A. (2006, 2 14). Q&A: A lost interview with ENIAC co-inventor J. Presper Eckert. Retrieved 01 2010, 05, from ComputerWorld: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/print/108568/Q_A_A_lost_interview_with_ENIAC_co_inventor_J._Presper_Eckert
- Stallings, W. (2006). Computer Organization & Architecture - Designing for Performance (7th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.