This college student made his own processor in a home garage

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,053   +153
Staff member
Bravo: Sam Zeloof isn’t your ordinary teenager. While still a senior in high school in 2018, he made the first homemade (lithographically-fabricated) integrated circuit which he dubbed the “Z1.” The chip only had six transistors on it, but again, he made the thing at home in a garage. Now, he’s back with version two.

Appropriately named “Z2,” this new chip packs 100 transistors on a 10µm polysilicon gate process. That’s the same technology that Intel used to create its 4004 CPU way back in the early 1970s, but to directly compare the two would be a bit unfair as Intel’s chip featured 2,300 transistors.

The chip design consists of a simple 10x10 array of transistors that Zeloof was able to lay out in Photoshop. As before, the entire process took place in his “garage fab” using impure chemicals, homemade equipment and without a clean room.

The Z2 is leaps and bounds better than the Z1. Switching to a polysilicon gate process reduced power consumption significantly, but without pure chemicals and in the absence of a clean room, yields are low.

“I’ve made 15 chips (1,500 transistors) and know there’s at least one completely functional chip and at least two “mostly functional”, meaning ~80 percent of the transistors work instead of 100 percent,” Zeloof said.

The most common defect, he said, is a drain or source shorted to the bulk silicon channel. With the Z1, the biggest issue was a leaky or shorted gate.

Thinking back to what I was doing at this age, it’s safe to say that Zeloof is well ahead of the curve. Those interested in supporting his endeavors should check out his newly created Patreon page.

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Posts: 8   +14
You gotta wonder how long its gonna be before he gets a visit from the authorities wondering why he needs all that fancy equipment.

Kinda like a Breaking Bad but for CPUs.

Bet it can play Doom at 200 fps
I'd like to make a prediction...

He's gonna hire a few dimwits for some work, register a company called Orange, make billions, and everyone is gonna hate him, 'cos he is either a prick already or working on it.
He'll probably get hired by Intel (seeing how desperate Intel is these days)


Posts: 377   +303
AMD, if somebody gets away from you like this, its your own dam fault if INTEL destroys you

No dude,

You used to be able to run a silicon fab in a storage closet. (every company did this, just to get their feet wet in the new industry, and to experiment with different chemicals).

Making your own transistors is just incredibly dull and boring (which is why we automated the task). Then we hand-placing chips were also boring, so we started combining multiple logic block's a single chip.

This is the same level of complexity as someone who creates their own custom "gonna change the world for sure " CPU architecture on an FPGA - nice side-project, but it's lost in the thousands of similar designs already abandoned!
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