A Brief History of The System-On-A-Chip

Have you ever wondered where the idea of the system-on-a-chip (SoC) came from? Gadgets nowadays are getting more advanced and most of them are based on SoCs. Basically, these components can be a bit hard to define.



Where SoCs Are Commonly Used


You will usually find SoCs in your smartphone, smart TV, tablet, and voice assistant. This includes your computer where you can see it in the hard drive, graphics cards, and network cards. The main processor chip, in many cases, an SoC with a number of CPU cores, particularly with ultra-mobile laptops. You will also find an integrated graphics processing unit in such components.


Other cheap single board computers are also available, including the Beagle Bone and the Raspberry Pi, most are based around a system-on-a-chip. You can only see them in devices that need SoCs.



Its Brief History


You may not have much information regarding the history of SoCs because most of the early developments were done in the development and research laboratories of private companies. Thus, the information has not become public because of intellectual property laws.


Companies developing the technology at that time called system-on-a-chip were at the cutting edge of the telecommunications industry. Moreover, these companies have been developing silicon for other companies and not for sale to design engineers.


Thus, the chips they have produced were using obscure codenames and part numbers not listed in catalogs that should be readily available for the public.



The SoCs in the 1970s


A system-on-a-chip technology was intended to provide miniaturization. It dates back to the early 1970s in the new era of the digital watch when the first LED wristwatch was announced. It took 44 logic ICs to be reduced into one chip. Some of the LED driving circuitry in that wristwatch was actually too large so that was not actually a complete system.



Development of the First SoCs in the 1980s to the 1990s


It was in the 1980s when the revolution of personal computing took off that caused the major developments in system-on-a-chip technology. In 1991, this technology continued to flourish with the release of the AMD286ZX/LX family of SoCs.


Then, the boom in the cellular phone industry has made it possible for the development of SoCs in the 1990s. At the same time, many smaller chips begin to do different peripheral functions, including audio, battery charging, keyboard, and LCD displays, among others.


In the late 1990s, ARM Holdings began to license its fabless processor designs to other manufacturers. The future of ARM and the mobile telecoms market is greatly accredited to the evolution of its reduced-instruction-set (RISC) CPU.


It was very powerful and consumes less power than its competitors. It has become ideal for the use of embedded systems as can be seen in the disk drive SoC.


  • The early 2000s featured cheaper and smaller mobile phones
  • In 2001, it was the release of the iPod that was based on the twin-core ARM SoC
  • The mid-2000s was the expansion of the market in Asia
  • The first iPhone was launched in 2007 that featured an SoC containing an ARM core and GPU


Today, the mobile phone industry has been pushing the limits of the system-on-a-chip. In fact, the SoCs gained several ARM cores, GPU cores, and RAM, as well as multimedia processing features.


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