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Computer Microtechnology

Not long after the computer was invented, engineers began to make improvements that increased computer functions and decreased computer size. Today's computers contain many microcomputer components—the primary one is the microprocessor, a type of microchip. A microprocessor contains the entire computer central processing unit on a single chip.

Microchips come in a range of sizes and can be as small as 0.08 sq in (2 sq mm). They are made of a slice of semiconducting material such as silicon or germanium and have specific electrical characteristics. The first microchips were made in the early 1960s. Some microchips are microprocessors; others can be memory or interface microchips. The microprocessor chip communicates with memory and interface chips within the computer through buses, or series of wires, that relay information.

Microcomputers are embedded in and control numerous modern devices such as automobiles, digital watches, telephones, and video cameras. The microelectronic circuits of these embedded computers are called integrated circuits. The miniature "onboard" circuitry is housed in the chips.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Methane to Molecular clockMicrotechnology - Computer Microtechnology, Lasers, Scientific And Medical Microtechnology, Space Microtechnology