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The integrated circuit is 50 years old today – doesn’t look a day over 110010 via /.

It’s half a century since the first integrated circuit was demonstrated by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments
Jack Kilby’s first integrated circuit

If it wasn’t for the invention of the integrated circuit, then computers today would probably be housed in huge mahogany cabinets with a baffling array of polished, brass valves, or at least be stuffed into huge boxes containing hand-soldered transistors. We owe a lot of thanks to the integrated circuit, or microchip, which is today celebrating its 50th birthday.

The first microchip (pictured) was first demonstrated by Jack Kilby from Texas Instruments on 12 September 1958. It might not be much to look at, but then Texas Instruments admits that Kilby often remarked that if he’d known he’d be showing the first working integrated circuit for the next 40-plus years, he would’ve ‘prettied it up a little.’ The chip worked, though, producing a sine wave on an oscilloscope screen at the demo.

The integrated circuit itself is the germanium strip that you can see in the middle of the glass slide, and it measured 7/16in by 1/16in. With protruding wires, and just containing a single transistor, some resistors and a capacitor, it’s a primitive chip by today’s standards. However, it opened the gate for mass production of larger-scale chips that could contain more and more transistors without the need for complicated hand-soldering jobs.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. samurai1200 says:

    micro-sized at almost a half an inch long!
    beautiful.

  2. Fredex says:

    This is a far more important event to remember than Sputnik, whose 51st anniversary is October 4th.

  3. VK3DRB says:

    The integrated circuit is actually a lot older than 50 years. IBM had invented and used integrated circuits on their unit record machines as far back as the 1930′s and 1940′s. The IC’s were in fact multistage vacuum tubes (valves) with resistors and capacitors integrated into the glass tube to make a one bit memory circuit, a dual stage amplifier or a latch. I still have one of these lying around somewhere. Kilby demonstrated the first SEMICONDUCTOR integrated circuit.

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