By Gabe Moretti, Technical Editor -- 8/21/2003
Engineers deal with complex systems by dividing them into subsystems, almost always using functions as the deciding criterion. When you look at a complex ASIC, for example, you see a number of functional blocks connected by buses. Depending on the application market the ASIC is targeting, many of the blocks are common or have functions in common with other products targeting the same market, regardless of the company and design team that implemented it. A chip that targets a graphics application, for example, is likely to contain a graphics-accelerator engine, a graphics memory to buffer display data, a microcontroller, and memory for software that controls the operation of the system. Semiconductor companies and fabless foundries have developed many products with architectures that target popular application areas, such as graphics acceleration and both wired and wireless communications. Vendors market these products under the category name of ASSPs (application-specific standard products). Products in this area generally offer no way to customize the application within the chip. You must implement your functions using components outside the device.
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