The function of an integrated circuit (IC) is to be a single component that can perform high-level tasks such as amplification, signal processing, or even sophisticated digital calculations as in the case of microprocessors. Few electronic circuits do not use an IC or a chip or microchip. Furthermore, the function of an integrated circuit includes miniaturization, cost reduction, and performance enhancement among others.
In terms of cost reduction, the function of an integrated circuit is to provide a relatively cheap alternative to gathering a huge amount of semiconductor parts and electrical parts, and mounting on a circuit board and soldered. If an electronics design were to implement in discrete components, the parts count could be, for instance, 250. With ICs, the parts count can drop to 10. This means the total materials count has dropped and every part of the production process is greatly simplified. By selecting the right IC, new features can be added using less resources.
The performance enhancement function of an integrated circuit is made possible by the specialized circuit implementation inside the chip. Several radio frequency applications were too expensive to implement as discrete components. When there was a high demand for a specific feature, the semiconductor industry finds a way to get funding and builds ICs for special applications. For instance, when sound cards for personal computers (PCs) were introduced, there were many manufacturers that decided to build medium-scale integration (MSI) chips that support PC sound applications. Another performance enhancement is the lowered power consumption for the same results, which brings higher power efficiency.
There are several ICs and even several microcomputers right inside computers, cell phones, and other digital devices. In a hand-held gaming gadget, there is a graphics processor that drives the colored screen. This processor is usually a large-scale integration (LSI) chip with its own miniaturized and super low-power digital processing system. Another computer – the main computer – handles the task of running user applications.
The trend in electronics has always been to miniaturize circuits, while the bottom-line costs are low. Any popular equipment will usually justify the amount of resources spent in conceptualizing, designing, and implementing new integrated circuits meant to optimize the manufacture of products. Given the trends in miniaturization, there seems to be endless possibilities in delivering electronic products that perform even better in all aspects.
There are standard ICs that work as amplifiers, power regulators, and simple signal processors. These ICs usually range from 8-pin to about 16-pin packages. The common package has two rows of pins, so a 20-pin dual-in-line (DIL) package will have two rows of 10 pins. Bigger chips are used mostly for complex digital applications such as customized or application-specific IC (ASIC), which can contain an entire microcomputer for all kinds of applications in telecommunications, automation, and power control.