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Milestones:First Semiconductor Integrated Circuit (IC), 1958 - GHN: IEEE Global History Network
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Milestones:First Semiconductor Integrated Circuit (IC), 1958

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First Semiconductor Integrated Circuit (IC), 1958

On 12 September 1958, Jack S. Kilby demonstrated the first working integrated circuit to managers at Texas Instruments. This was the first time electronic components were integrated onto a single substrate. This seminal device consisted of a phase shift oscillator circuit on a tiny bar of germanium measuring 7/16” by 1/16” (11.1 mm by 1.6 mm). Today, integrated circuits are the fundamental building blocks of virtually all electronic equipment.

The plaque can be viewed at Texas Instruments, North Campus, 13532 North Central Expressway, Dallas, TX, U.S.A.

The integrated circuit is the invention that enabled the modern electronics industry. Originally used in military applications, it quickly became the core of commercial and consumer electronics, and moved into medical equipment, household appliances, automobiles and even musical greeting cards. It is estimated that the average person encounters thousands of integrated circuits every day. Because of this invention, the electronics industry has grown from $29 billion in 1961 to $1500 billion today. Among the remarkable things it has enabled are:

  • Space exploration;
  • Personal computers;
  • Cell phones;
  • Digital cameras;
  • Anti-locking brakes;
  • Cochlear implants that helps the deaf to hear and cornea implants that help the blind to see;
  • Picture-perfect images for sonograms and medical diagnostics.
  • The invention of the integrated circuit won the inventor, Jack Kilby, the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000, the National Medal of Science in 1970, and induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1982.

This invention set in motion the technology that would enable the second industrial revolution, and its in-situ form made it possible for future generations of integrated circuits to become orders of magnitude smaller and more powerful. Today, the integrated circuit is the fundamental building block of all electronic equipment. The integrated circuit was the answer to a difficult technological problem known as the “tyranny of numbers.” At the time, the recently invented transistor was inspiring engineers to design evermore complex electronic circuits and equipment containing hundreds or thousands of discrete components such as transistors, diodes, rectifiers and capacitors. But the problem was that these components still had to be interconnected to form electronic circuits, and hand-soldering thousands of components to thousands of bits of wire was expensive and time-consuming. It was also unreliable; every soldered joint was a potential source of trouble. The challenge was to find cost-effective, reliable ways of interconnecting these components and producing them. It wasn’t until the invention of the integrated circuit by Jack Kilby that this could be done and electronic equipment could start its dramatic course of commercialization and miniaturization. In 1976, Kilby provided insight into his thinking by explaining, “Further thought led me to the conclusion that semiconductors were all that were really required — that resistors and capacitors [passive devices], in particular, could be made from the same material as the active devices [transistors]. I also realized that, since all of the components could be made of a single material, they could also be made in situ interconnected to form a complete circuit." The invention caused a lot of buzz and controversy in the first few years as it was shown at trade shows. Recognizing the need for a "demonstration product" to speed widespread use of the integrated circuit, TI management challenged Kilby to design a calculator as powerful as the large, electro-mechanical desktop models of the day, but small enough to fit in a coat pocket. The resulting electronic hand-held calculator, of which Kilby is a co-inventor, successfully commercialized the integrated circuit.

References

1. TI Home > About TI > Company Info > TI People > Jack Kilby > About Jack http://www.ti.com/corp/docs/kilbyctr/kilby.shtml

2. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2000
Jack S. Kilby, Texas Instruments, Dallas, Texas, USA
"for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit"
http://nobelprize.org/

3. The Kilby International Awards Foundation.
http://www.kilby.org/. Jack St. Clair Kilby, The Namesake of the Foundation.
Tribute to Jack Kilby. A Statement from the Trustees & Councils of the Kilby Awards Foundation

4. IEEE Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal
http://www.ieee.org/portal/pages/about/awards/sums/kilbysum.html

References to Kilby’s Publications:

5. Kilby, J.S.; The integrated circuit's early history - Proceedings of the IEEE
6. Kilby, J.S.; “ Invention of the integrated circuit”, Electron Devices, IEEE Transactions on, Volume 23, Issue 7, Jul 1976 Page(s):648 – 654.
7. Platzek, R.C.; Kilby, J.S.; “Minuteman integrated circuits—A study in combined operations”,
Proceedings of the IEEE, Volume 52, Issue 12, Dec. 1964 Page(s):1669 - 1678

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