Who Can Hold 2 Billion Transistors in His Head at Once?

It’s impossible to do engineering anymore without using mostly other people’s knowledge

     I was visiting a high-tech company whose principal business was advanced chip design. A young engineer showed me his latest prototype. It was a circuit board dominated by a single large integrated circuit. It contained, he told me, more than 2 billion transistors.

     I’d never done anything remotely similar myself, and I wondered how I’d feel as a new engineer in some company being given a “Mission: Impossible” assignment like that. “How can you possibly design something so complex?” I asked.

     The young engineer just shrugged his shoulders. No big deal, he appeared to be saying. After a little further prodding, he confessed that, after all, there was a large collection of previously designed cells, and the computer design tools were pretty awesome. Not much to it, really. [read more..]