The computer chip, often known simply as a chip, in lowercase to distinguish it from the main character, is a tile in Chip's Challenge, which typically Chip must collect a specified number of in order to open the socket to reach the exit.
Some levels have no chips required, which allows Chip to immediately open any existing sockets (only Castle Moat has no chips and has sockets in CC1), and some levels have extra chips placed in the level, though some extra chips may be inaccessible (see Lesson 6) or skippable entirely due to a mistake in the programming or a glitch of some type. Examples of these, known as one type of busted level, are Tossed Salad, Three Doors, Hidden Danger, and Scoundrel.
Chip is under no set requirement to collect only the number of chips required, but it is obvious that this will delay him. Also, a socket does not require Chip to collect the chips over again when opened.