The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

June - 2001 - issue > Cover Feature

A New 'Chipless' Semiconductor Industry for India

Monday, November 17, 2008

Although numerous VLSI chip design initiatives are sprouting up at universities throughout India, the country has no semiconductor capability of any economic consequence. And one could argue that it is too late. The collective requirement for vast capital expenditures, decades of accumulated design and manufacturing expertise, a well-established distribution system and an entrenched customer base all create a formidable barrier to entry.
But the integrated circuit industry has seen several paradigm shifts in its 40 years of existence. With each, a new constituency has become empowered to participate in the industry. And now it may be time for an entirely new group to take the spotlight. We may be witnessing the dawn of “chip-less” chip design, and the era of the programmer. And world-class programmers — talented, sophisticated, creative software engineers — India has in abundance. Could this be an industry waiting to happen? Cirrus Logic spin-off Cradle Technologies is hoping to make it a reality.

Embedded Intellectual Property
Fundamentally, chip design is the embedding of complex algorithms in silicon, just as programming is the embedding of complex algorithms in computer code. Whether to use a chip or software to accomplish some sophisticated (or simple but lengthy) processing task depends upon the availability of a “platform” to run the software, and the performance of the combined platform and software in the intended application.

Word processing was performed, in the “dark ages,” with expensive, dedicated hardware. It eventually migrated to software. The result was Microsoft Word and WordPerfect, $250 applications running on general-purpose platforms such as the Intel Pentium or the PowerPC. By contrast, functions like Internet packet processing, or video graphics processing, migrated over the years from software into specialized, application-specific chips. In each case, different solutions to a cost-performance equation dictated the endpoint.

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