AUSTIN, Texas -- Willis Adcock, who recruited Jack Kilby to Texas Instruments and supported the work that led to the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958, died here on Dec. 16 at age 81.
Kilby, already an accomplished inventor in the young field of solid-state electronics over a decade of work at Centralab in Milwaukee, had several job offers before him in 1958. After receiving a letter from Adcock, who was manager of TI's development department, Kilby decided to move to Dallas.
Kilby, who will be an honorary pallbearer at Adcock's funeral here on Saturday, said, "I always felt indebted to Willis. He hired me at TI and helped me do the work I wanted to do."
Adcock retired as a vice president of TI in 1986, moving to the University of Texas at Austin as a professor of electrical engineering. He is survived by his wife, Sara McCoy Adcock, and seven children.
Adcock in mid-1958 gave Kilby approval to pursue the "monolithic" approach to connecting discrete components, even though Adcock primarily was involved with the "Micro-Module" approach supported by the U.S. Army, in which each discrete component had connecting wires that could be connected together. Kilby, according to an account by author T.R. Reid, disliked the Micro-Module approach because it closely resembled work at Centralab that had appeared unpromising.
During the TI corporate vacation that summer, Kilby developed ideas about how to use silicon to make resistors and capacitors, as well as transistors, ideas that led to the integrated circuit. He showed his notes to Adcock, who was interested but who expressed doubts that the approach could be built.
As a condition for pursuing the approach and diverting resources from the Micro-Module project supported by the Army, Adcock asked that Kilby use silicon make a working resistor, and a working capacitor, and connect the discrete components, according to author Reid's history of the integrated circuit: "The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution."
After that test circuit worked, Adcock gave Kilby the go-ahead to pursue the monolithic approach on a single piece of silicon. Adcock was present on Sept. 12, 1958, along with Texas Instruments chairman Mark Shepherd and other TI executives, when Kilby hooked up his phase-shift oscillator to an oscilloscope.
Reid describes the scene, saying that Kilby was nervous because no one had tried anything like this before. He checked the connections on the chip, fiddled with the dials of the oscilloscope, and glanced at Adcock, who gave him a "here goes nothing shrug."
Kilby "checked the connections again and took a deep breath. He pushed the switch. Immediately, a bright green snake of light started undulating across the screen in a perfect, unending sine wave."
The men, according to Reid's account, looked at Kilby, looked at the chip, looked at the scope, and then broke into wide smiles.