What is an Integrated Circuit?

Integrated circuits, commonly known as ICs, serve as a fundamental component in contemporary electronics. Functioning as the core and intelligence behind the majority of circuits, they mark the transition from analog to digital electronics. Recognizable as the ubiquitous black "chips" present on nearly every circuit board, ICs are essential in electronic projects. Unless you possess expertise in analog electronics, it's probable that every electronics project you undertake will incorporate at least one IC, underscoring the significance of a comprehensive understanding of their inner workings.

One of the most compelling advantages inherent in integrated circuits (ICs) is their remarkable ability to deliver outstanding performance within a minimal physical footprint. By consolidating multiple discrete components onto a single chip, ICs alleviate the need for bulky circuitry, facilitating the development of sleek, compact designs. This size reduction not only enhances portability but also unlocks the potential for creating devices with capabilities that were previously inconceivable.

In addition to their space-saving benefits, integrated circuits boast superior energy efficiency. Through meticulous design and optimization, ICs can effectively minimize power consumption, resulting in extended battery life, diminished heat generation, and environmentally conscious operation. This energy-conscious approach proves pivotal in our interconnected and mobile world, where the demand for efficiency continues to escalate.

The versatility of integrated circuits stands as another hallmark of their significance. Whether you're an experienced engineer pushing the boundaries of technological innovation or an entrepreneur materializing a new concept, ICs offer a flexible platform for crafting customized solutions. With a diverse array of specialized ICs at their disposal, designers can precisely match components to their requirements, streamlining the design process, reducing complexity, and fostering unparalleled creativity.

What do they look like?

Integrated Circuits come in all different shapes and sizes depending on what their intended function is, what is inside each, and what their intended use is. For instance, an IC that you use while prototyping on a breadboard will look different than its counterpart that would be used on a surface-mount printed circuit board. Below are a variety of Integrated Circuits with just as many varieties of packages. Most often, hobbyists and makers will use the DIP, or Dual In-Line Package, which allows them to be used in Breadboarding and for through-hole, a-home PCB making.













 Inside an Integrated Circuit

An IC is a collection of electronic components -- resistors, transistors, capacitors, etc. -- all stuffed into a tiny chip and connected together to achieve a common goal. They come in all sorts of flavors: single-circuit logic gates, op-amps, 555 timers, voltage regulators, motor controllers, microcontrollers, microprocessors, and much much more!


DIP, short for dual in-line package, is the most common through-hole IC package you'll encounter. These little chips have two parallel rows of pins extending perpendicularly out of a rectangular, black, plastic housing.

Each of the pins on a DIP IC are spaced by 0.1" (2.54mm), which is a standard spacing and perfect for fitting into breadboards and other prototyping boards. The overall dimensions of a DIP package depend on its pin count, which may be anywhere from four to 64.

Polarity and Pin Location

All ICs are polarized, and every pin is unique in terms of both location and function. This means the package has to have some way to convey which pin is which. Most ICs will use either a notch or a dot to indicate which pin is the first pin. Once you know where the first pin is, the remaining pin numbers increase sequentially as you move counter-clockwise around the chip.