Types of Computer Chips

By Erik Devaney

Computer chips are made from a semiconducting material, most commonly silicon, which has the ability to transfer electricity among insulators and metallic conductors. Acting as semiconductors, computer chips can perform a variety of functions, including storing data and running programs. And, while all computer chips are comprised of transistors and are installed onto circuit boards, there are many types, all of which have their own characteristics.


Today’s computers use random access memory (RAM) chips as their primary means for storing temporary data. According to Sematech.org, the most common varieties of these chips used in computers are dynamic RAM (DRAM) chips, while others include Flash, EPROM and EEPROM (which are more often used in cell phones and other handheld devices). These chips are able to store information as long as a computer is turned on, and the chips are receiving power. When a computer is shut down, all of the data on a RAM chip is wiped clean. For increased memory performance, some computers feature up to eight RAM chips on their circuit boards.


According to HyperPhysics.edu, the term microprocessor generally refers to a central processing unit (CPU) or a device that performs the function thereof. This entails carrying out all of the programmable commands on your computer, such as turning it on when you push the power button. A microprocessor is essentially the brain of a computer and is comprised of control and arithmetic logic units (ALUs). It is typically installed on a single large-scale integration (LSI) chip, which contains tens of thousands of transistors.

Other Computer Chips

Computers, particularly laptops, often incorporate cameras and other devices into their designs. For these applications--according to Sematech.org--computers use application specific integrated circuit chips, or ASICs, which are custom-designed for specific functions (such as taking pictures or recording video). Computers that feature high-speed modems or telephone capabilities might also be equipped with digital signal processor, or DSP, chips, which can convert analog signals into digital ones. DSPs can also improve the quality of incoming signals.

Chip Packages

According to Internet.com, computer chips come in three, basic packages or styles. These include single in-line packages (SIPs), which have one straight line of legs; pin-grid arrays (PGAs), which have pins arranged in concentric squares; and dual in-line packages (DIPs), which have between eight and 40 legs, divided evenly between two rows. Chips can also come as part of a single in-line memory module, or SIMM, which is comprised of up to nine chips, compressed into a single unit.