Microchips are one of the most complicated objects humanity has created, packing billions of transistors into a chip only a few centimeters across. These transistors keep getting smaller and more efficient, and the current process to make chips is already astounding, requiring dozens of steps, fantastically complicated machines, and atomic-scale precision. But the current state of the art has reached its physical limits. The structures on a chip are now smaller than the wavelength of light used to make them, and any more progress will require a big change. That change is EUV, a radically new way of making chips that uses super high energy UV light created from a complex process involving plasma and lasers. EUV will enable our devices to keep getting smaller, faster, and more efficient, but where the current process to make chips already feels like sc9i-fi technology, EUV feels like magic.
Originally developed by the U.S. military, the Global Positioning System (GPS) as we now know it became operational in 1995, and has since become vital to nearly every facet of modern life, from our smartphones to the internet and the electrical grid. David Pogue was invited into the Air Force’s GPS Master Control Station at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo, and visits Lockheed Martin, where a new generation of GPS III satellites is being built.
On December 23, 1947, three researchers at Bell Labs demonstrated a new device to colleagues. The device, a solid-state replacement for the audion tube, represented the pinnacle of the quest to provide amplification of electronic communication. The History Guy recalls the path that brought us what one engineer describes as “The world’s most important thing.”