The First Buffalo

The First Buffalo

This integrated circuit is one of the first Silicon-On-Sapphire (SOS) chips to originate from Hewlett-Packard's Cupertino Integrated Circuits Operations (CICO) in California during the late 1970s. Other SOS chips in the collection are the Buffalo Chip, the Half Adder, and the Full Adder math chips found elsewhere in the Silicon Zoo.

The photomicrograph above depicts two buffalos facing each other with a miniature copy of the American flag and the slogan "Made in USA" positioned in between. The buffalo on the left sports the name John C., which refers to John Carlson, the chief designer for the chip. The buffalo on the right has the name Dick V., for Dick Vlach, the artist/mask designer who actually drew the buffalos in metal.

John Carlson tells us that this is the fourth chip in a series that used a buffalo symbol in the documentation and is the first chip that actually had buffalos rendered in silicon on the surface. The chip is a floating point divider for the HP 1000 series computers, and uses a sequential algorithm that produces three quotient bits per clock cycle. The following is a quote from an email from John:

"The original two buffalos were layed out mounting. During the design review with the process people, nobody looked at the design, just the buffalos. No one mentioned the buffalos until all other issues were discussed and then the senior manager for the process said 'what are we going to do about the buffalos?'"

Actually they had already been re-layed as illustrated in the photomicrograph above. This chip was designed and fabricated in 1980.


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