Very-large-scale integration (VLSI) is the process of creating integrated circuits by combining thousands of transistor-based circuits into a single chip. The first semiconductor chips held one transistor each. Subsequent advances added more and more transistors, and as a consequence more individual functions or systems were integrated over time. The first integrated circuits held only a few devices, perhaps as many as ten diodes, transistors, resistors and capacitors, making it possible to fabricate one or more logic gates on a single device. Now known retrospectively as "small-scale integration" (SSI), improvements in technique led to devices with hundreds of logic gates, known as large-scale integration (LSI), i.e. systems with at least a thousand logic gates. Current technology has moved far past this mark and today's microprocessors have many millions of gates and hundreds of millions of individual transistors. As of early 2008, billion-transistor processors are commercially available, an example of which is Intel's Montecito Itanium chip.
This is expected to become more commonplace as semiconductor fabrication moves from the current generation of 65 nm processes to the next 45 nm generations. Another notable example is Nvidia's 280 series GPU. This microprocessor is unique in the fact that its 1.4 Billion transistor count, capable of a teraflop of performance, is almost entirely dedicated to logic (Itanium's transistor count is largely due to the 24MB L3 cache). At one time, there was an effort to name and calibrate various levels of large-scale integration above VLSI. Terms like Ultra-large-scale Integration (ULSI) were used. But the huge number of gates and transistors available on common devices has rendered such fine distinctions moot. Terms suggesting greater than VLSI levels of integration are no longer in widespread use. Even VLSI is now somewhat quaint, given the common assumption that all microprocessors are VLSI or better.