The microscopic world of mobile chip art
I’d heard about “chip art” before, but not really paid much attention to it. Then, over Christmas I saw a programme on Finnish TV which sparked my interest. I wondered – was there any ‘mobile’ chip art out there?
What is chip art?
For the uninitiated, “chip art” is created when silicon chip designers use redundant space on circuit boards to add a piece of personal artwork. It’s graffiti, but on a microscopic scale, and one which often goes completely undetected. Although chip art originally served a purpose – to help ‘catch out’ board cloners – since 1984 when copyright law changed there has been little reason to incorporate it. Except for fun, of course.
Mobile chip art?
There are hundreds of examples of chip art on computer-destined circuit boards, but far fewer in mobiles. Or are there?
Although not strictly mobile-related, this touch-tone telephone chip art was discovered on an Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) integrated circuit board. Cute, nevertheless, and retro is all the rage, right?
After digging a little deeper, I did manage to find a couple of pieces of chip art actually hidden within mobile phones. This one, above, was concealed inside a Nokia N80 mobile phone, and resembles a rat or mouse (of sorts). According to my (Finnish) wife the words translate as “Eat chicken”. It’s a safe bet that nobody except the person who put it there knows what that means.
This one, fondly known as “The Magical Mystery Pig”, was found on the RF component of another Nokia phone. Again, the significance of this is a complete mystery. The beauty of some of this chip art is not only in the wonderful detail – considering its size – but more fundamentally in why it was put there in the first place.
I wonder how much more mobile chip art is hiding out there?