The MAX232 is an RS-232 line driver/receiver made by Maxim. It's used to connect computers and peripherals (modems, printers, industrial controllers, and lots more) together using the standard RS-232 bus. This chip's job is to convert the signal voltages from 5V used by most microprocessors to +/- 12V required by the RS-232 bus. The MAX232 is a very clever little chip, because it only needs a 5V supply voltage and no 12V, like its predecessors. It manages to create the higher voltages using a circuit called a charge pump. For this circuit to operate, the MAX232 needs a couple of capacitors connected externally.
This is the chip. It's housed in a standard plastic 16-pin DIP package. The date code is 8910, which means that this particular chip was manufactured in 1989.
The IC itself. It looks quite weird, like it's been designed by a Snake fanatic (you know, this game in which you control a snake that gets longer as you pick up points). Let's have a closer look:
The snake at the top is connected to a bondwire on one side, and to the circuit on the other side. This is probably an on-chip resistor, likely a 5kΩ one as shown in the datasheet. Resistors on a chip can be made by placing a very long piece of wire of a certain thickness, which is then usually curled up in some way to save chip area.
Note that the circuit below it is largely symmetrical about the horizontal axis. This is because the chip contains two driver/receiver pairs, which are of course identical.
The centre, including the manufacturer's name and the copyright date.
Another snake. This must be a 400 kΩ resistor, because it's much longer than the one we saw earlier.