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Reverse-engineering the carry-lookahead circuit in the Intel 8008 processor

The 8008 was Intel’s first 8-bit microprocessor, introduced in 1972. While primitive by today’s standards, the 8008 is historically important because it essentially started the microprocessor revolution and is the ancestor of the modern x86 processor family. I’ve been studying the 8008’s silicon die under the microscope and reverse-engineering its circuitry.
The die photo below shows the main functional blocks1 including the registers, instruction decoder, and on-chip stack storage. The 8-bit arithmetic logic unit (ALU) is on the left. Above the ALU is the carry-lookahead generator, which improves performance by computing the carries for addition, before the addition takes place. It’s a bit surprising to see carry lookahead implemented in such an early microprocessor. This blog post explains how the carry circuit is implemented.

Most of what you see in the die photo is the greenish-white wiring of the metal layer on top. Underneath the metal is polysilicon wiring, providing more connections as well as implementing transistors. The chip contains about 3500 tiny transistors, which appear as brighter yellow. The underlying silicon substrate is mostly obscured; it is purplish-gray. Around the edges of the die are 18 rectangular pads; these are connected by tiny bond wires to the external pins of the integrated circuit package (below).

The 8008 was sold as a small 18-pin DIP (dual inline package) integrated circuit. 18 pins is an inconveniently small number of pins for a microprocessor, but Intel was committed to small packages at the time.2 In comparison, other early microprocessors typically used 40 pins, making it much easier to connect the data bus, address bus, control signals, and power to the processor.”

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