What is Small-Scale Integration

The highly functional, compact electronic equipment – from mobile phones to control systems or data centre servers – found in factories, offices, shopping centres, our homes, our pockets and even within our bodies owes its existence to integrated circuits, or ICs. ICs achieve high functional density for their host systems by integrating a large number of transistors and electronic circuits onto a semiconductor substrate, usually silicon. With this integration, ICs can offer functional building blocks that are orders of magnitude smaller, faster and cheaper than equivalent solutions implemented with discrete components.

JEDEC defines an integrated circuit as 'A circuit in which all or some of the circuit elements are inseparably associated and electrically interconnected so that it is considered as indivisible for the purposes of construction and commerce.'

Although many different technologies for manufacturing ICs are available, in general usage Integrated Circuit refers to the single-piece circuit construction originally known as a monolithic integrated circuit.

In the early days of simple integrated circuits, the technology's large scale limited each chip to only a few transistors, and the low degree of integration meant the design process was relatively simple. Manufacturing yields were also quite low by today's standards. As the technology progressed, millions, then billions of transistors could be placed on one chip, and good designs required thorough planning, giving rise to the field of Electronic Design Automation, or EDA.

Against this background of growth, chips with 1 to 10 transistors, and 1 to 12 logic gates, appeared in 1964. This level of integration is referred to as 'small-scale integration'.