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Easy automated method to find chronological age of an integrated circuit design? Answered

This is not a question related to a homework or career assignment.

This question is an existential question.

Specifically, the thing that I am wondering if it exists, or not, is an easy and automated method for finding the chronological date, e.g. a year, Anno Domini (AD) or Common Era (CE), when a named integrated circuit (IC) was introduced.  Preferably this method exists in the form of a free resource on the Web.

As an example, the well known 555 timer IC was introduced in the year 1971, and I am reasonably confident that was the year, because the Wikipedia article titled "555 timer IC",
contains the words:

"Introduced in 1971 by American company Signetics, the 555 is still in widespread use..."

And I assume that statement is totally true, because if I can't trust the people who edit Wikipedia, I mean, who can I trust?

Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not have a fact-filled article for almost every IC every sold.  In contrast, a place like www.alldatasheet.com has data sheets for almost every IC ever sold, but, it turns out, the data sheet does not always reveal the year the IC was introduced.

To clarify this further, the thing I really want to exist, would be like a web site, with a name like:


(Please note that none of those URLs point to actual existing web sites, at the time of this writing.)

Moreover, I am fantasizing this web site would contain a form, for to enter the name of the IC to look up, and then after hitting the "Submit" button, it would magically tell me what year that IC was introduced to the world, and maybe also which semiconductor company gave birth to it.

As some example input and output, the query

NE555 would return:  NE555, 1971, Signetics(r)

As an additional twist to this fantasy, the query, LM555, would return the same thing, and this magical web page would like, know, that LM555 was a later version of the same IC, except produced by a different manufacturer, namely National(r); i.e LM555 was National's version of the 555 timer .

If you have read this far, I congratulate you!  And I appreciate your eyeball time!

If you are wondering about my motivation for this question, it is just that think the year an IC was introduced would be a very useful metric, like for answering more specific questions, like:

The SG3524 and LTC3780 are ICs used for making switchmode power supplies.  Which of these ICs is more modern? I.e which IC was introduced latest?

It turns out, the answer to this question is: The SG3524 is older (introduced first).  The LTC3780 is younger (introduced second).

The SG3524 was introduced (I am guessing) in 1977, and that guess is based on some cryptic scribbles in a data sheet for the SG3524, published by Texas Instruments(r). The exact characters were:


and I am just naively interpreting that blurb to mean the SG3524 was introduced in 1977.

Regarding the LTC3780, I think it was introduced some time in the 1990s.  Looking at its datasheet, from Linear Technology(r), I could not find an obvious description of what year it was first introduced, but the first page mentions some US Patent numbers, and looking up those patent numbers, gives dates circa the early 1990s.

So the LTC3780 is the younger than the SG3524.

However to find that answer, I kind of had to do a bunch of reading of datasheets, and US Patent numbers, and that method took a little bit of work.

My question:  Is there an easier way to find out how old (or young) an IC is?  More specifically is there an existing resource on the Web, like a free database, or a IC history site, or something where I can essentially "look up" the year an IC was introduced.

By the way there is no absolutely zero urgency attached to this question.  So please answer if you feel like it,  and don't if you don't.

I thank you for reading this.  My name is Jack A Lopez, and I approve of this message.


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Best Answer 4 years ago

Well, apart from scanning data sheets and maybe checking scanned old journals and patents, there is IMHO no way to get this information.

What do you define as the DOB of a chip?
- the time it was completely designed (just data)
- the time it was first simulated?
- the time the first small scale production samples wre made for testing?
- the time the first engineering samples reached the market (stuff you only get directly from the producers sales men)?
- the time the first revision actually reached the distributors?
There may be months between any of the steps.

But anyway, why would people be interested in an almanac of IC introduction dates?

BTW, and you probably know that, if you are interested in the age of a certain chip, there is nomaly a date code in the form YYWW on it. YY are the last two digits of the year, WW is the week of the year (like 1550 - December last year, 8326 middle of 1986).

Jack A Lopez
Jack A Lopez

Answer 4 years ago

Since you asked, I think I would define a chip's birthday (or birthyear) would be the day (year) when the first large batch goes on sale to the general public, and everything before that would be, uh, pre-natal.

But the more I think about it, just knowing an IC design is some number of years "old" or "young", it is NOT that valuable of a thing to know.

Honestly, I was trying to think of, like, some shortcuts to tell me if an IC design is "good", or not.

Besides chronological age, I might ask the question of what the marketplace thinks. Are there companies who still make this design? Are there customers who still want to buy it?

Of course what really matters is suitability for a particular design, and the answers to, "Will the IC work for my design?" and those questions are best answered by studying the data sheets.

Anyway, I am going to agree with you, that there does not exist at the time of this writing, an easy way to discover a chip's birth day (or year), and I am going to select your answer as BA.

Also, I am thankful for every other answer posted here too. It is very kind of y'all to offer answers, even for the weird questions, like this one.


Answer 4 years ago

lawsuit wise, date of availability can establish precedence... Two silly easterners were suing each other about a bingo last ball blinking, when a lawyer found that I designed, built and sold a last ball flash bingo displays 5yrs before.

End of lawsuit by prior art.

Yes, most ICs have a MFG date code to keep track of batch manufacturing but not first introduction..


4 years ago

Instead of a patent maybe you should look for a copyright. The pattern that is used to photo transfer to the silicon is copyrighted. It is essentially a negative. There might be a list of chip designs that are copyrighted and the date the copyright is issued.

Just a guess ---

Some of the art work that is hidden on the chips ---



4 years ago

Don't forget Signetics introduction of the WOM (write only memory)...

This was publicized about 1971 after the ROM (read only memory) had been around for some time... The WOM was meant for storing military secrets,,,,

We got a nice EE guy Shaw from India to write for a sample WOM and they sent him back a Laurel & Hardy coloring book...


4 years ago

I once, pre net, needed to find when the 556 a dual 555 was first introduced....

Those times I kept the yearly parts books for three electronic component distributes. Unfortunately the part was available before my book collection.