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What is Microchip Art?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Microchip art is simply a microscopic drawing that is created as part of the process of manufacturing microchips. Essentially, microchip art is a result of the time-honored tradition of microchip designers leaving an impression on the chip. This impression serves as a signature of the art created by the designer.

In actual form, it is impossible to see microchip art with the naked eye. Viewing a microchip using a microscope will reveal the presence of the impression or signature. The microchip art is usually found in the top layers of the chip's surface, placed strategically in a corner of the chip masked that is not used.

While the creation of microchip art has been around for a number of years, it was not until 1998 that the general public became aware of etchings on the surface of microchips. The discovery of microchip art was the result of an accidental discovery by Michal Davidson, a photographer. Engaged in a project to photograph the geometric patterns of the microchip, Davidson noticed what appeared to be a departure from the patterns, and zoomed in for a closer look. What he found was an etching of Waldo, the subject of a then popular set of children's books entitled Where's Waldo? Subsequent investigations into the surfaces of other microchips yielded more examples of various impressions left by the creators of the chips.

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Since 1998, many different types of etchings have been found on microchips dating back as far as 1980. The reasoning behind the selection of the subject matter for the etching varies. In some cases, the etching has some connection to the intended purpose for the chip. At other times, the choice of etching has to do with the individual tastes of the designer.

Not everyone is a fan of microchip art. The equipment used to create the etchings is really intended to help identify design flaws, not to decorate the microchip. Some manufacturers believe that the presence of microchip art could interfere with the productivity of the chip, especially as the chips become more sophisticated. Supporters of microchip art declare that the etching always takes place in an area of the surface that is not in use for any function, and therefore poses no threat to the efficiency of the chip.

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