Friday, May 18, 2018

Intel at 50: Intel’s 1101

Intel’s 1101 static random access memory (SRAM) was the first high-volume metal-oxide semiconductor (MOS) memory and the first chip to use silicon gates. The device was the result of a challenging development process. The conceptual groundwork for metal-oxide semiconductor memory had been established before Intel’s founding, but no one was even close to a commercially viable mass production method.

The task of developing one was daunting. Tom Rowe, Intel’s first process engineer, recalled that the largest obstacle was getting a high die yield out of a wafer (Intel’s goal was 20 die per wafer), a problem he feared might be intractable: “Every time we’d fix a problem, we’d uncover another one. … For all we knew the silicon gate process was no good. We’d make process change after process change, and many design changes, but it was still yielding only about two die per wafer, which meant it was a commercial disaster.”