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First Semiconductor Integrated Circuit (IC)

Location: Dallas, TX, USA
Date: 1958
Creator(s): Kilby, Jack S.

On 12 September 1958, Jack S. Kilby demonstrated the first working integrated circuit to managers at Texas Instruments. This was the first time electronic components were integrated onto a single substrate. This seminal device consisted of a phase shift oscillator circuit on a tiny bar of germanium measuring 7/16” by 1/16” (11.1 mm by 1.6 mm). Today, integrated circuits are the fundamental building blocks of virtually all electronic equipment.

The integrated circuit is the invention that enabled the modern electronics industry. Originally used in military applications, it quickly became the core of commercial and consumer electronics, and moved into medical equipment, household appliances, automobiles and even musical greeting cards. It is estimated that the average person encounters thousands of integrated circuits every day. Because of this invention, the electronics industry has grown from $29 billion in 1961 to $1500 billion today. 

This invention set in motion the technology that would enable the second industrial revolution, and its in-situ form made it possible for future generations of integrated circuits to become orders of magnitude smaller and more powerful. Today, the integrated circuit is the fundamental building block of all electronic equipment. The integrated circuit was the answer to a difficult technological problem known as the “tyranny of numbers.” At the time, the recently invented transistor was inspiring engineers to design evermore complex electronic circuits and equipment containing hundreds or thousands of discrete components such as transistors, diodes, rectifiers and capacitors. But the problem was that these components still had to be interconnected to form electronic circuits, and hand-soldering thousands of components to thousands of bits of wire was expensive and time-consuming. It was also unreliable; every soldered joint was a potential source of trouble. The challenge was to find cost-effective, reliable ways of interconnecting these components and producing them. It wasn’t until the invention of the integrated circuit by Jack Kilby that this could be done and electronic equipment could start its dramatic course of commercialization and miniaturization. In 1976, Kilby provided insight into his thinking by explaining, “Further thought led me to the conclusion that semiconductors were all that were really required — that resistors and capacitors [passive devices], in particular, could be made from the same material as the active devices [transistors]. I also realized that, since all of the components could be made of a single material, they could also be made in situ interconnected to form a complete circuit." The invention caused a lot of buzz and controversy in the first few years as it was shown at trade shows. Recognizing the need for a "demonstration product" to speed widespread use of the integrated circuit, TI management challenged Kilby to design a calculator as powerful as the large, electro-mechanical desktop models of the day, but small enough to fit in a coat pocket. The resulting electronic hand-held calculator, of which Kilby is a co-inventor, successfully commercialized the integrated circuit.

Tags: Era: 1950-1959
Innovation designated by:
First Semiconductor Integrated Circuit (IC)
Courtesy Wikipedia/Texas Instruments
Jack Kilby's original integrated circuit.
Texas Instruments, North Campus
13532 North Central Expressway
Dallas, TX, USA

Texas Instruments, North Campus

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