Year of Invention: 1958
What Is It? A block of semiconductor material constructed into various layers
that form the components of a complete electronic circuit.
Who Invented It? Jack Kilby (in Dallas, Texas)
Considered by many to be more impressive than the ancient alchemists’ trick of turning lead into gold, modern electronic wizards turn ordinary sand into working electronic brains—microchips. Computers, video games, car electronics, smart rockets, space shuttles, jet airplanes, stereo systems, microwaves, mail sorting equipment, wrist watches, bar codes and scanners, Game Boys®, telephone routing systems, manufacturing, medical technology, smart toasters, dolls that talk, and a thousand other products that affect our daily lives owe their operation to the microchip.
Early computers worked on banks of hundreds of vacuum tubes. As a result, they were bulky, cabinet-size (or room-size) machines that required high-powered air conditioners just to keep them from overheating.
The invention of the transistor (Bardeen and Shockley in 1947) helped. Transistors were miniature, low-heat devices that replaced vacuum tubes. Computers shrank to a tenth of their former size.
In 1952,29-year-old Jack Kilby worked at Centralab, a small Michigan company manufacturing miniature circuits for hearing aids, radios, and TVs. The work frustrated and disappointed Kilby. Designing hearing aid circuits seemed unimportant. Kilby felt that he would miss the great electronics revolution happening around him.
But this was also a frightfully frustrating period for electrical engineers. The complex transistorized circuits they designed often required hundreds of thousands of separate, tiny components: resistors, capacitors, transistors, and diodes. Manufacturing lines could not