Good grief Caruthers, things are certainly speeding along. For example, today – 12 September 2008 – is the 50 anniversary of the introduction of the very first integrated circuit (IC), popularly known as "silicon chips".
Prior to ICs, transistors and other electronic components were available only in individual packages. The resulting products were bulky and expensive; at that time, constructing a register capable of storing a single binary bit of data cost more than $2.
To a large extent, the demand for miniaturization was driven by the demands of the American space program. For some time, people had been thinking that it would be a good idea to be able to fabricate entire circuits on a single piece of semiconductor. The first public discussion of this idea is credited to a British radar expert, Geoffrey William Arnold (G.W.A.) Dummer (1909-2002), in a paper presented in 1952.
However, it was not until 1958 that Jack St. Clair Kilby (1923-2005), working for Texas Instruments, succeeded in fabricating multiple components on a single piece of semiconductor. Kilby's first prototype was a phase shift oscillator comprising five components on a piece of germanium half an inch long and thinner than a toothpick. Although manufacturing techniques subsequently took different paths to those used by Kilby, he is still credited with the creation of the first true integrated circuit.
Truth to tell, I'm not 100% sure as to the exact day that Kilby first got his device to function, but 12 September 1958 was the day that he first demonstrated his IC (which was constructed on germanium, not silicon) to the management of Texas Instruments, at which time it essentially "became real."
I don't know about you, but I LOVE all of the things that silicon chips do for me, so I tip my hat to Mr. Kilby (who sadly passed away three years ago). "Thanks Jack, we all owe you one!"
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.