Silicon Art Library
We think these works of art deserve a wider audience – and so do others. Lee Goldberg, editor at analogZONE, runs a regular Chip Art of the Month column in his publication.
In December 2005, Wired Magazine had a full page feature "Silicon as Canvas." There is also a full entry in Wikipedia describing the history of the art, with samples from Chipworks too.
Silicon art . . . how it's created
Integrated circuits (ICs) are constructed from multiple layers of material, typically silicon, silicon dioxide (glass), and aluminum. The composition and thickness of these layers give them their distinctive color and appearance. These elements create an irresistible palette for IC design and layout engineers.
The creative process involved in the design of these chips, a strong sense of pride in their work, and an artistic temperament compel design engineers, or their teams, to want to mark their work as their own. It is very common to find initials or sets of initials on chips. This is their way of "signing" their work.
Often these creative artists' instincts extend to the inclusion of small pictures or icons. These may be images of significance to the designers, comments related to the chip's function, inside jokes, or even satirical references to their corporate masters in the cartoonist tradition (e.g., the mythical "bill sux" comment on a Pentium chip).
The mass production of these works of art as parasites on the body of a commercial IC goes unnoticed by most observers. Their existence is a tribute to human resourcefulness and creativity, surfacing from deep within a complex process.
In investigating inside technology, Chipworks has found creative expressions on many of the chips that we have examined. Images are captured by Chipworks' proprietary state-of-the-art software, and are uncovered during magnification of the images. Magnification, based on the available space where the art is placed, can vary anywhere from 200 to 500 times the actual size.