Wednesday, June 22, 2005

He Changed the World

Picture of Jack Kilby with NotebookWhat I like about the story behind the invention of the integrated circuit (IC) is that Jack Kilby did it as a first-year employee at Texas Instruments (TI), during a two-week period in the Summer when most of the company took vacation. Since he was new at TI, he couldn't take vacation! Alone with his thoughts, pondering the impracticalness (physically and financially) of mass producing miniature circuits, he began to sketch out the ideas that led to the integrated circuit. When his boss, Willis Adcock, returned from vacation, he asked Jack to "prove it." So Jack built these early ICs. And a year later, TI announced that they had a "significant development."

Slowly, but surely, the entire world shifted with this development. Integrated circuits (better known as microchips) allowed all electronics to shrink dramatically. Nearly every miniature medical device uses an IC. They're inside virtually every electronic device. And microchips eventually led to general computers. (Robert Noyce, a co-founder of Intel, is credited with inventing the IC in parallel with Jack Kilby.)

Jack built the IC in 1958. He died two days ago at the age of 82.

Photo courtesy of Texas Instruments.

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