Content for Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the process by which a man-made object is deconstructed to reveal its designs, architecture, or to extract knowledge from the object; similar to scientific research, the only difference being that scientific research is about a natural phenomenon. Reverse engineering is applicable in the fields of mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, software engineering, chemical engineering, and systems biology.

Reverse-engineering the LM185 voltage reference chip and its bandgap reference

“Many circuits, such as a computer power supply or a phone charger, require a stable voltage reference, but it’s harder than you might expect to keep a voltage stable when the temperature changes. One integrated circuit that does this …

Reverse-engineering a mysterious Univac computer board

“The IBM 1401 team at the Computer History Museum accumulates a lot of mystery components from donations and other sources. While going through a box, we came across the unusual circuit board below. At first, it looked like an IBM …

Inside the Apple-1’s unusual MOS clock driver chip

“Apple’s first product was the Apple-1 computer, introduced in 1976. This early microcomputer used an unusual type of storage for its display: shift register memory. Instead of storing data in RAM (random-access memory), it was stored in a 1024-position …

Silicon die teardown: a look inside an early 555 timer chip

“If you’ve played around with electronic circuits, you probably know the 555 timer integrated circuit,1 said to be the world’s best-selling integrated circuit with billions sold. Designed by analog IC wizard Hans Camenzind2, the 555 has been …

Yamaha DX7 reverse-engineering, part III: Inside the log-sine ROM

“The Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer (1983) was the classic synthesizer for 1980s pop music. It used two custom digital chips to generate sounds with FM synthesis. In this blog post, I examine the log-sine ROM that digitally produces sine waves …

Reverse-engineering the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer’s sound chip from die photos

“The Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer was released in 1983 and became “one of the most important advances in the history of modern popular music”1. It defined the sound of 1980s pop music, used by bands from A-ha and Michael …

Reverse-engineering a vintage power supply chip from die photos

“I recently did a PC power supply teardown so I figured it would be interesting to go deeper and see what happens inside the power supply’s control IC. The die photo below shows the UC3842 chip, which was very …

A one-bit processor explained: reverse-engineering the vintage MC14500B

“The Motorola MC14500B1 is a 1-bit processor introduced in 1976. While a 1-bit processor might seem almost useless,2 it was marketed as an Industrial Control Unit for applications that made simple decisions based on Boolean logic, for example, air …

Reverse-engineering a vintage comparator chip

“I recently saw an interesting die photo of an unknown chip on Twitter, so I did some analysis of it. Looking at the circuitry inside, the chip appears to be four comparators, probably in the ECL (Emitter Coupled Logic) family …

8086 microcode disassembled

“Recently I realised that, as part of his 8086 reverse-engineering series, Ken Shirriff had posted online a high resolution photograph of the 8086 die with the metal layer removed. This was something I have been looking for for some time …