At 22 Sam Zeloof Has Hand Built A 1200 Transistor Chip In His Garage

Source: Slashdot At 22 Sam Zeloof Has Hand Built A 1200 Transistor Chip In His Garage

A Scion Of Jeri Ellsworth

If you haven’t already heard of 22 year old Sam Zeloof, who was interviewed last Friday by Wired, he is now famous for the hand fabrication of a 1200 transistor semiconductor chip, which he created in his garage.  Doing so did require a bit of luck as well as skill, as there are some equipment requirements you can’t really find workarounds for.  The biggest hurdle is an electron microscope for examining the features of his transistors.  A good friend found a broken one and with $1000, a fair amount of know how and a lot of time they were able to repair it to working condition.   As for the photolithography device?   The light from a conference room projector is beamed through a microscope to trigger the light sensitive coating on his wafers

Some might be wondering how he managed to turn his garage into a clean room and the answer is simple, he didn’t.  The original transistors developed at Bell Labs in 1947 and later Fairchild Semiconductor were created on workbenches, with clean rooms coming much later.  The Z1 chip that propelled him to internet fame uses transistors with features as small as 175 microns, and is capable of flashing a single LED and a can control a guitar distortion pedal.  That last is a hint as to the three bears etched onto his chips; it seems Sam is a bit of a Dead Head.

This could be a bit of a race for improving the chip fabrication capabilities of the US.  While Intel has a lot more money, it also has a long history of difficulties living up to the promises they make to the American government, meanwhile Sam Zeloof has already built his fab and his process technology is shrinking at a much higher pace than Intel’s.

Garage-built chips aren't about to power your PlayStation, but Zeloof says his unusual hobby has convinced him that society would benefit from chipmaking being more accessible to inventors without multimillion-dollar budgets. "That really high barrier to entry will make you super risk-averse, and that's bad for innovation," Zeloof says.

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About The Author

Jeremy Hellstrom

Call it K7M.com, AMDMB.com, or PC Perspective, Jeremy has been hanging out and then working with the gang here for years. Apart from the front page you might find him on the BOINC Forums or possibly the Fraggin' Frogs if he has the time.

4 Comments

  1. collie man

    I didn’t notice the Jerry Bears till you mentioned it. Thats awesome. The whole thing is bad ass AF but the bears just make it so rock n roll, bad assssssss

    Reply
  2. M

    a person of advantage, come on not everyone has those advantages so lets not see this as “evidence” that all anyone needs is some old-west pioneer “grit” ta pull yurselves uppin by tha boot-straps!

    Reply
    • Jeremy Hellstrom

      Is that really all you took away from it?

      Reply
  3. Mike

    That’s awesome! Had no idea one could make a chip in the garage. Impressive guy (Sam), and thanks for the great article!

    Reply

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