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Microelectronics Technicians

History

The science of electronics is only about a century or so old. Yet electronics has had an enormous impact on the way people live. Without electronics, things like television, computers, X-ray machines, and radar would not be possible. Today, nearly every area of industry, manufacturing, entertainment, health care, and communications uses electronics to improve the quality of people's lives. This article you are reading, for example, was created by people using electronic equipment.

The earliest electronic systems depended on electron vacuum tubes to conduct current. But these devices were too bulky and too slow for many of their desired tasks. In the early 1950s, the introduction of microelectronics—that is, the design and production of integrated circuits and products using integrated circuits—allowed engineers and scientists to design faster and smaller electronic devices. Initially developed for military equipment and space technology, integrated circuits have made possible such everyday products as tablet computers, microwave ovens, and MP3 players and are found in nearly every electronic product that people use today.

Integrated circuits are miniaturized electronic systems and include many interconnected electronic components such as transistors, capacitors, and resistors, produced on or in a single thin slice of a semiconductor material. Semiconductors are so named because they are substances with electrical properties somewhere between those of conductors and insulators. The semiconductor used most frequently in microchips is silicon, so microchips are also sometimes called silicon chips. Often smaller than a fingernail, chips may contain multiple layers of complex circuitry stacked on top of each other. The word integrated refers to the way the circuitry is blended into the chip during the fabrication process.

The reliance on electronic technology has created a need for skilled personnel to design, construct, test, and repair electronic components and products. The growing uses of microelectronics have created a corresponding demand for technicians specially trained to assist in the design and development of new applications of electronic technology.

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