August 26, 2013

Zilog Z80 Z0840004PSC : weekend die-shot

After taking photos of Z80-compatible CPU's from DDR and USSR we finally got the original Zilog's Z80. This chip had datecode 9012.

If you compare the dies of original Z80 and DDR/USSR ones - you can see that original Z80 has much denser peripherals layout. Also, in the middle of the die there is a word "DC", while on compatible processors there is just a blank space at the same place.

Die size 3545x3350 µm. It's area is 1.6 times smaller than T34VM1.

August 25, 2013

Altera Cyclone EP1C3 : weekend die-shot

Altera Cyclone EP1C3 is the smallest 1-st generation FPGA from Altera. It has 2910 LE, 1 PLL and 58.5 kibibit of memory (13 M4K blocks, 128x36 bit each).

On the polysilicon level we can see that each M4K block is subdivided into 2 halves (26 "rectangles" total in 2 columns). Array of logical elements is non-symmetrical, on the right side of the array right in the middle there is an PLL.

Half of die area is occupied by peripherals, which is not surprising given all the variety of supported IO standards.

August 12, 2013

T34VM1 - soviet Z80: weekend die-shot

T34VM1 is Z80-compatible processor manufactured in Soviet Union / Russia by Angstrem in 1991 and probably later.
Die size 4513x4251 µm.

Marking on the die "U880/5" suggests that it was likely manufactured from mask set received from east Germany company VEB Mikroelektronik "Karl Marx" in Erfurt (MME).

We also made photo of ceramic package itself as it's quite rare chip:

"ОП" marking on the ceramic package means "experimental batch".
August 11, 2013

ULN2003 - practical example of «reading» microchip schematic

We often receive comments that while our microchip photos are beautiful and interesting, it is completely unclear how integrated circuit implements basic elements and form larger circuit. Of course it is impossible to do a detailed review of an 1'000'000 transistor chip, so we've found simpler example: ULN2003 - array of Darlington transistors.

Despite it's simplicity this microchip is still widely used and mass manufactured. ULN2003 contains 21 resistors, 14 BJT transistors and 7 diodes. It is used to control relatively high load (up to 50V/0.5A) from microcontroller pin. Canonical use case - controlling segments of large 7-segment LED displays.
Read more →
June 25, 2013

Bitfury - specialized Bitcoin processor : weekend die-shot

Recently we've received sample chips from engineering run of Bitfury - specialized Bitcoin processor.

Compared to Avalon/BFL it is much more advanced thanks to 55nm manufacturing technology (TSMC) and full-custom design. Performance of single chip is ~2-3 Ghash/sec (final numbers are TBD) compared to ~282 Mhash/sec for Avalon.

Designer of Bitfury decided to remain anonymous, it is only known that he is from Ukraine. This was his first ASIC project, he was doing few FPGA projects in the past. What is even more unbelievable is that due to tight time requirements they had to skip MPW run and go straight to full mask run. Cost of mistake was extremely high, but it all worked from the first time. Final devices would be assembled by Metabank in Russia.


The package is QFN again (like in Avalon) - due to it's excellent thermal performance and short/low inductance connections to leads.

Read more →
June 11, 2013

Avalon - specialized Bitcoin processor : weekend die-shot

Yifu Guo (designer of Avalon) agreed to send us several chips for decapsulation, but while they were slowly traveling around the world - needbmw gave us damaged chip from his working Avalon mining unit.

Damaged chip itself (fortunately, die itself is not damaged):
This tiny thing does 282 Mhash/s (like AMD 6970 videocard), consuming ~2.5W of power.

Read more →
May 28, 2013

K553UD1A : weekend die-shot

K553UD1A is one of the first Soviet integrated operational amplifiers. This one was manufactured in June 1978.

It is a functional analog of µa709, though, it is not it's per-layer copy:

Image from