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 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 …

Reverse-engineering the standard-cell logic inside a vintage IBM chip

“Integrated circuits are often built from standard-cell logic, constructed from standardized building blocks such as NAND gates. Since I’ve been looking at a chip that uses standard-cell logic, I figured it was a good opportunity to examine standard-cell logic …

Teardown of a quartz crystal oscillator and the tiny IC inside

“The quartz oscillator is an important electronic circuit, providing highly-accurate timing signals at a low cost. A quartz crystal has the special property of piezoelectricity, changing its electrical properties as it vibrates. Since a crystal can be cut to vibrate …

Reverse-engineering a low-power LED flasher chip

“How do you make an LED blink? A vintage way is the LM3909, a chip from 1975 that can flash an LED for a year from a single flashlight battery. This chip has some surprising features, such as a charge …

Reverse-engineering an early calculator chip with four-phase logic

“In 1969, high-density MOS integrated circuits were still new and logic circuits were constructed in a variety of ways. One technique was “four-phase logic”, which provided ten times the speed and density of standard logic gates while using 1/10 …

Reverse-engineering the clock chip in the first MOS calculator

“In 1969, Sharp introduced the first calculator built from high-density MOS chips, the QT-8D, followed by the handheld Sharp EL-8, the world’s smallest calculator at the time.1 These calculators were high-end products, selling for $345 (about …

Reverse engineering RAM storage in early Texas Instruments calculator chips

“Texas Instruments introduced the first commercial single-chip computer in 1974, combining the CPU, RAM, ROM, and I/O into one chip. This family of 4-bit processors was called the TMS1000.1 A 4-bit processor now seems very limited, but it …