Reply to post: Maybe

Picking apart the circuits in the ARM1 – the ancestor of your smartphone's brain

Mike 16 Silver badge


An experienced engineer can learn a lot by looking at a chip plot, less by looking at a die photo. Much less these days of dizzying numbers of layers. It is not unknown to have "traps", structures that look like one sort of transistor but in fact (due to implant or doping) behave differently than expected. The chip plot will probably be more "honest", but also less likely to be available to an adversary.

Now, if the question is about non-adversarial (e.g. scholarly) study, again, the increasing complexity of modern chips means things don't just "jump out at you", and much of modern (or not so modern) chips is generated rather than hand drawn. One would need some familiarity with the idioms of the designer, or the compiler.

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