It is hard to think of an invention that has had a greater influence on the mass production of devices that have enabled humankind to communicate information with printed matter or with photons or with electrons or with ions or even with atoms than lithography. The information highways and pathways of our present age-the information age-are literally paved with chips of crystalline silicon made by lithography. Nearly every book, magazine, newspaper, brochure, flyer, catalog, and other print piece that has been produced during the last three hundred years has been printed with offset lithography. Nearly every integrated circuit (IC) in the chips that run the computers and telecommunication systems that power the information highway, as well as medical devices, electronics, home and industrial appliances, automobiles, and airplanes-to mention but a few-is made by semiconductor lithography. Without such integrated circuits, we would have no powerful computers, no large-scale automation, no communication satellites, or even space exploration. There would certainly be no electronic calculators or digital watches, no transistor radios, portable tape recorders, personal digital assistants, Internet, cell phones, etc. Many diagnostic procedures in medicine and dentistry rely on integrated circuits, as does the heart pacemaker and the modern hearing aid. The impact of all these things on our lives is tremendous. For instance, we can watch events on our television sets or mobile phones or on the Internet as they are happening thousands of miles away. We can withdraw our money from automatic teller machines almost everywhere in the world, without the aid of a bank clerk, whose function has been transformed from that of an accounts keeper to one of an intermediary between the customer and the computer. Many products are now manufactured, assembled, and shipped today by automatic machines that rely on integrated circuits for their operations. Airplanes are guided by computer-controlled systems and even airline seats are reserved worldwide by an instantaneous computer booking system. The list is almost endless and is growing every day. A world without lithography would be unrecognizable to any one of us today, although we may not always be cognizant of its pervasiveness and reach in our daily lives.
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Introduction to Lithography