It was midsummer, 1958. Jack St Clair Kilby, a recently-employed 35-year-old engineer didn’t
have enough leave accrued to take the summer break off like most of his
colleagues, so was working virtually alone in the laboratory at Texas
Inventor (or co-inventor) of the integrated circuit, Jack St Clair Kilby, in the Texas Instruments laboratory in 2000, the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Below is Jack Kilby in 1958, the year of his invention.(Pictures courtesy Texas Instruments)
The most junior engineer at TI, Kilby’s background was in
ceramic-based circuit boards and transistorised hearing aids. He joined TI
because it was the only company that agreed to let him work on electronic
component miniaturization more or less full time – and it turned out to be a
He was working on a problem known in circuit design as "the
tyranny of numbers" – the more components a circuit has, the more difficult it
is to connect them together using traditional wiring methods.
Kilby had come up with an ingenious solution: manufacturing all
of the circuit components in a single piece semiconductor substrate.
Using a piece of germanium (the then-common semiconductor
material) Kilby cobbled together a crude device in the TI laboratory and on
September 12, 1958,
he presented his findings to Texas Instrument
His germanium circuit was attached to an oscilloscope, which
displayed a continuous sinewave, proving that the concept worked. Thus the
integrated circuit was born, ushering in an era that even Jack Kilby couldn’t
"What we didn’t realise then was that the integrated circuit
would reduce the cost of electronic functions by a factor of a million to one,
nothing had ever done that for anything before," said Jack Kilby
A patent application for "A solid circuit made of germanium"
was filed on February 6, 1959.
Kilby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for "his
part in the invention of the integrated circuit". He had always scoffed at the
idea of such an honour, despite many people over the decades suggesting he
deserved it – and despite him being awarded just about every other prize and
honour available to a humble engineer; one who happened to change the course of