Integrated Circuits A Vital Part of Modern Electronics

ICs or integrated circuits are a vital part of modern electronics, the cornerstone, so to speak, of just about every current electronic project. If you look inside almost every electronic item, certainly a PC, you’ll see multiple small black chips, usually with a set of feet, or pins for attaching them.

Complex Series Of Electronic Components

While what’s inside is complicated, when you look at an IC (integrated circuit), they seem rather simple. Inside, however, they are a complex series of electronic components designed to achieve a specific purpose. The IC can be composed of resistors, transistors, capacitors which all function in unison to carry out the intended use. ICs are manufactured with the end goal in mind and come in assorted models, i.e. single-circuit logic gates, op-amps, 555 timers, voltage regulators, motor controllers, microcontrollers, and microprocessors and that is far from a complete list.

Integrated circuits have become one of the most fundamental parts of modern technology. They do however build on knowledge and practices that were initially achieved via analog methods. When we think of an IC (integrated circuit), most of us would imagine the small black chip we find inside our computers. That’s a natural mental picture, but what’s actually inside these modern marvels?

Inside an IC is a world of electronic wonders, split into a semiconductor wafer, and copper all designed to perform a specific task. Their functions combine to create transistors, resistors and other components in the circuit. The technical term for this combination of ingredients is called a die. While we’re not talking microscopic, an IC and the wafers insider are incredibly small and intricate.

An IC die (explained previously) is the actual circuit, but it is much too small for soldering or making secure connections. For this reason, the IC die is packaged in manufacturing into the black chip we’re familiar with, doing the job of connecting them to a board, manageable.

The IC Package

The package is what, in essence, holds the small die and splays it out into a functional unit, one we can connect to. Each connector, or leg, is connected via a tiny gold wire to a pin or pad on the package. The pins are the silver pins or legs you’ll see on the edge of the chip, which in turn connect to other parts, such as the motherboard inside a PC. This package is very crucial to us, the consumer or engineer, as they are what gives us the ability to connect to other parts, eventually creating a finished product.

NOTE: There are multiple types of packages depending on the end use and function. Each would have a different pin count and possibly of a different size.

Each IC is polarized, and each pin is responsible for a specific connection and purpose. Therefore, it is crucial the package (or chip) be inserted correctly. Pin one is designed by a notch or a dot, sometimes both, to indicate proper placement. Once pin one is identified via the notch or dot, the remaining pin number are sequential in a counterclockwise direction around the chip.

IC mount to a circuit board in one of two ways depending on the mounting type, through-hole (PTH) or surface-mount (SMD or SMT). The through-hole package is more extensive and much easier to handle, designed to be soldered to the board from the reverse side. Surface mounted ICs are much more difficult to handle being small or minuscule. Often special tools are required for the SMD package to be correctly seated and soldered. They all sit on one side of the circuit board, and the pins are usually perpendicular to the chip or in a matrix pattern.

DIP, which is short for the dual in-line package is the more common form of through-hole chips. DIPS have two rows of pins extending outward from a plastic housing. The size of a DIP will depend on the pin count. However, the spacing between the pins is standard at 0.1″ (2.54mm). This spacing allows them to be manufactured with consistency and to comfortably fit into breadboards and other prototyping boards.

Standardization comes into play again with the placing of the rows between pins. Each is spaced to avoid any electrical shorts and to allow them to straddle the center area of a breadboard. DIPs are designed to be used on breadboards but can also be soldered into PCBs. Usually, they are inserted on one side of the board, then fastened on the other, however, sometimes a socket is used for secure replacement if needed.

Surface Mooted Note: Because there is such a wide variety of surface mounted package today, in any case, a custom-crafted circuit board PCB) is needed. This board would come with a matching pattern of copper for easy and correct soldering. Whether you’re reading this as someone interested creating a project with an IC, or just curious about their function, while they are small, they are a large part of what allows us to function in this technological age. Get to know more at