Who discovered the integrated circuit chip

Chip card

Chip card

Chip cards, often called Smart card or Integrated Circuit Card (ICC) are special plastic cards with a built-in integrated circuit (chip) that contains hardware logic, memory or a microprocessor. Chip cards are controlled by special card readers.


In the history of the chip card, two inventors shaped the development of the chip card in its current form with their patents.

On September 10, 1969, the German inventor Jürgen Dethloff and Helmut Gröttrup were the first to file a patent for his idea of ​​“building a special integrated circle into an identifier”.[1] The second inventor is the Frenchman Roland Moreno, who has his patent[2] Registered in 1975. It is registered on the US Patent and Trademark Office website on May 30, 1978. In it he describes an "independent, electronic object, developed for the storage of confidential data", which enables access after entering a "secret code" (PIN).


Chip cards can be differentiated according to different criteria. The catchiest one is the distinction between Memory chip cards with simple logic and Processor chip cards with its own card operating system and cryptographic capabilities.

For a long time, this classification was consistent with the classification in synchronous cards (Memory chip cards; protocols: 2wire, 3wire, ...) and asynchronous cards (Processor chip cards; protocols: T = 0, T = 1). Meanwhile there is also Secure memory cards with advanced security features (DES or AES encryption) and memory chip cards that have asynchronous protocols function (GemClub Memo), the latter are very easy to integrate into your own applications via the PC / SC system.

Chip cards are also differentiated from the outside through the interface. The contact chip cards stand the contactless RFID chip cards, or transponder cards like the Mifare or Legic cards, across from. Chip cards with several (different) chips become hybrid cards but there are also chips on the market that can be addressed via both interfaces (Dual interface cards). Together with PC / SC2, this results in innovative possible uses.


The most important component of the chip card is the integrated circuit, which determines the capabilities and thus the field of application of the chip card.

The chip is protected by the chip card module so that the chip is usually completely embedded and not visible. The module also represents the connection to the outside world, the typical gold contacts of the chip card module are often incorrectly referred to as a chip. Although a common smart card chip only needs five contacts for communication, smart card modules always have six or eight contacts, depending on the size of the built-in chip, but only to comply with ISO standards.

Ultimately, the module including the chip is built into a card. To do this, a cavity is milled into an already printed card and the module is glued in.

Many chip cards, especially for mobile communications, have a unique ICC-ID or ICCID, which is 19 to 20 digits long, including 1 check digit.


The card dimensions are standardized according to ISO 7816 and are available in three different sizes according to this standard:

  • ID-1: The largest and most widespread format (85.725 mm × 53.975 mm or 33/8" × 21/8") is used for EC cards, phone cards, EU driving licenses or health insurance cards. This is also known as credit card format.
  • ID-00: The medium format (66 mm × 33 mm) has so far not found any major application.
  • ID-000: The smallest of the formats (25 mm × 15 mm) is mainly used for SIM cards in mobile phones.

There are also other typical sizes:

  • Mini-UICC (12 mm × 15 mm): hardly larger than the contact areas
  • Visa mini (65.6 mm × 40.0 mm): Visa-own format

The thickness of cards of all sizes is uniform and is 0.762 mm (0.03 inch to be exact).

Memory chip cards

Block diagram of a memory chip card

The simple chip cards consist only of a memory that can be read or written, e.g. B. the health insurance card or the phone card. It is possible to access the individual memory cells sequentially via the interface. Memory cards are used where only the storage of data is important, but not the handling of complex processes.

Depending on the chip used, the data can be protected by PINs or passwords from being read out or changed by third parties.

Processor chip cards

Block diagram of a processor chip card
Chip module with 8 contacts (left in the picture, metallization partially torn off) and the associated microprocessor (right)

Processor chip cards have a microprocessor that can be used to access the stored data. There is often no way to access the data area directly. The detour via the microprocessor allows the data on the card to be protected from unauthorized access using cryptographic methods. The ability to run application-specific programs on these microprocessors offers many advantages over memory cards, e.g. B. with chip cards that are used as a means of payment (money card) or contain important data (z. B. SIM cards for cell phones). The card often also contains a signed key and serves as a decoder card (e.g. for pay TV or other access systems). When the chips are manufactured, parts of the card operating system (COS) and the intended applications are loaded onto the card.

The smart cards can serve as secure information or key storage, but they also offer various security services such as authentication, encryption, signature, etc., which can be used in a trustworthy environment. Since the private keys are stored on the smart card and do not leave it, it is not possible to spy on the key, which is why generating a signature on the smart card is very secure.

A separate operating system runs on processor chip cards. This can be, for example, BasicCard, CombOS, CardOS, JCOP, MTCOS, MultOS, SECCOS, Sicrypt, STARCOS or TCOS.

The processor chip cards can in turn be divided into two categories. These are cards with a fixed command set that can only be adapted by the manufacturer of the operating system, and freely programmable cards that can be expanded with your own commands or commands via a development environment. Cards with a fixed command set usually implement commands according to the ISO7816 standard (ISO7816-4 and following). Examples of cards with a fixed command set are CardOS, STARCOS, SECCOS and TCOS. Freely programmable cards partly also follow this standard, but can also be expanded to include other proprietary commands. To do this, they usually implement a virtual machine. Examples of this are the Java cards (for example JCOP), MULTOS and the BasicCard.

Chip card application

The applications on the processor chip cards themselves are, despite standardization by ISO 7816, highly dependent on the chip card operating system. PKCS # 15 standardizes the application on the chip card itself, while PKCS # 11 is the standardized interface for use by computer applications. There are also proprietary interfaces such as CSP (Cryptographic Service Provider) from Microsoft.

Java map

Java cards are microprocessor cards with a reduced Java virtual machine as the operating system. This system is called Java Card Open Platform (JCOP) and is specified in the Global Platform Standard (formerly: Open Platform). With these cards, after the card has been completed, a programmer can load new programs, so-called applets, onto the card using a card reader and special loading software (STK). In this way, cards with very special functionalities can be produced cost-effectively in small series. Other systems, such as the .NET card, also allow code to be reloaded.


The BasicCard is a microprocessor card that can be programmed in BASIC and, like the Java Card, works with a virtual machine. After compilation, the applications created in BASIC can be transferred to the card using a card reader. The development environment is available free of charge. Cards are also available to everyone in small numbers. The card is therefore also suitable for smaller and private projects.

Host / software API

The interaction between computer systems and chip card readers or chip card applications is standardized in the PC / SC standard. Version 2 of the PC / SC specification deals with not only higher-class card readers but also the integration of asynchronous memory chip cards and contactless chip cards in the PC / SC system, for example how an ATR (Answer to Reset) of these cards is formed. Some drivers from card reader manufacturers are now PC / SC2-compliant. The older CT-API ("CardTerminal Application Programming Interface") is part of the Teletrust Germany published MKT specification (MKT stands for "multifunctional card terminal"). This specification is mainly used in German-speaking countries. CT-API is used primarily because the use of elements of higher-class smart card readers (pin pad, display) is standardized here. Access via PC / SC was proprietary up to PC / SC2.


In Germany the competitors Giesecke & Devrient, Sagem Orga, Winter AG, PPC Card Systems and Bundesdruckerei are market leaders, worldwide Gemaltonv (50% worldwide, 30% in Europe). In 2007, the world market will comprise an estimated 2.9 billion cards, of which an estimated 70% will be for cell phones (SIM cards), 16% EC cards and credit cards, the rest for IDs from passports to ski passes, tickets, etc.

With more than 10,000 systems installed worldwide, Mühlbauer AG, based in Roding, Bavaria, is one of the world's leading consultants and manufacturers for hardware and software solutions for the production and personalization of chip and plastic cards. Becker & Partner GmbH (Aachen) offers patented chip card readers for special tasks (mobile communications and forensics).

Testing of chip cards

With the ever increasing spread of chip cards, it is also becoming more and more important to guarantee or verify the performance of these cards. The tests range from tests of the plastic body to application tests of the chip card application. An open source tool with which these application tests can be carried out comfortably is GlobalTester, based on Global Platform, a standard for open and interoperable infrastructures for chip cards and terminals.


  • Wolfgang Rankl, Wolfgang Effing: Chip card manual. Structure, functionality, use of smart cards. 5th revised and expanded edition. Hanser Verlag, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-446-40402-1.
  • Wolfgang Rankl: Chip card applications. Draft samples for the use and programming of chip cards. Hanser Verlag, Munich and others 2006, ISBN 3-446-40403-1.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Patent DE000001945777A of September 13, 1968, page 8, to be researched in the Depatis system of the German Patent and Trademark Office
  2. ↑ Systems for storing and transferring data in the USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database