History, crudely drawn
June 28, 2008 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Behold the raw, elemental beauty of the world's first monolithic integrated circuit, aka microchip, made by Nobel-laureate Jack Kilby in 1958 when he worked at Texas Instruments. The third anniversary of his death was last week.
posted by not_the_water (11 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Considering the whole thing is about 1x1.5 mm, it's pretty impressive. Although this flipflop is a bit cooler (and about the same size)
posted by delmoi at 10:48 PM on June 28, 2008

Millions of 709s have been sold, and both the 702 and 709 are still being made - a unique longevity record in an industry whose products usually become obsolete within only a few years. The 709 is faster and far more efficient than the 702 and has ten times the amplification: whereas the 702 can boost an incoming signal by some seven thousand times, the 709 can raise it an astounding seventy-thousand-fold. Until Widlar created the 709, such a chip was thought to be impossible.

Thanks to its powerful properties, the 709 won an indispensable place in countless applications, from computers and stereos to airplanes and missiles. When it first appeared, the 709 cost more than $100, but the price has since fallen to a mere 45ยข...
Very cool site. Seeing pictures of these chips is pretty intresting.
posted by delmoi at 10:53 PM on June 28, 2008

I read The Chip a while back, and I highly recommend it. A great deal of the book is devoted to the long running legal battle that ensued. If I remember correctly, Kilby regretted that he didn't do a better job of soldering on his prototype, as it was a centerpiece of the controversy and as such was subjected to a great deal of scrutiny.
posted by Tube at 10:57 PM on June 28, 2008

Waldo found
posted by hortense at 11:09 PM on June 28, 2008

When I first glanced at this post, I thought it was about Nobel Laureate Jack Kirby. Who as it turns out is not a Nobel Laureate at all and didn't design electronics in his spare time.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:33 PM on June 28, 2008

That photo needs a pencil tip for scale.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:06 AM on June 29, 2008

(but very cool site)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:07 AM on June 29, 2008

> The assemblage was held together with was.

For a moment that was just a web page mistyping. Then it suddenly gave me an intense moment of time collapse. "You can't change me or undo me. I was, therefore I am."
posted by jfuller at 4:59 AM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

Its amazing to look at the prototype IC that Kilby built with his own hands and realize that, not quite half a century later, we've come so far but at the same time the basic technique hasn't really changed. We're making them smaller and more complex but the central idea hasn't really changed since that prototype.

Its also one of those examples of genuine genius. The idea looks so obvious in retrospect, but it had been possible for years before Kilby had his idea. To me that's the hallmark of a true genius, that later people say "well hell, I could have thought of that". Complex, hard, stuff is good and necessary, but the really earth shattering, genius level, things tend to be breathtakingly simple, and in retrospect you can't believe it took people that long to come up with it.
posted by sotonohito at 2:16 PM on June 29, 2008

Its amazing to look at the prototype IC that Kilby built with his own hands and realize that, not quite half a century later, we've come so far but at the same time the basic technique hasn't really changed.

That isn't exactly true.. From page 8:
The Jean Hoerni, a Swiss physicist and one of Fairchild's founders, invented an ingenious way around these obstacles by creating a flat, or planar, transistor.

Instead of mounting the mesa, or base, on top of a foundation of silicon, he diffused it into the foundation, which served as the collector. Next he diffused the emitter into the base. (The base was composed of negatively doped silicon, the collector and emitter of positively doped silicon; the first planar device was thus a pnp transistor.) Then he covered the whole thing with a protective coating of silicon dioxide, an insulator, leaving certain areas in the base and the emitter uncovered. He diffused a thin layer of aluminum into these areas, thereby creating "wires" that hooked the device up to the outside (this was the idea of his colleague and Fairchild co-founder, Robert Noyce). The result was a durable and reliable transistor, and the all-important breakthrough that made commercial production of ICs possible.
Still, it has been around for an awfully long time :P
posted by Chuckles at 8:19 PM on June 29, 2008

Strangely, they don't mention the inventor of the mesa process - wikipedia reports it as both TI and Fairchild though, both articles can't be correct :P

The entire wikipedia page History of the Transistor is remarkably interesting actually, and shows how developments in science and engineering are way more complex than the sole inventor theory that we keep getting spoon fed:
The first patent[1] for the field-effect transistor principle was filed in Canada by Austrian-Hungarian physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld on October 22, 1925, but Lilienfeld published no research articles about his devices, and they were ignored by industry. In 1934 German physicist Dr. Oskar Heil patented another field-effect transistor[2]. There is no direct evidence that these devices were built, but later work in the 1990s show that one of Lilienfeld's designs worked as described and gave substantial gain. Legal papers from the Bell Labs patent show that Shockley and Pearson had built operational versions from Lilienfeld's patents, yet they never referenced this work in any of their later research papers or historical articles. [3][4]
Don't forget to check out the talk page though!
According to Bell System Memorial there were accounts in British magazines from the 1910s about Russian ship board operators achieving gain from "cat's whisker" diodes with two whiskers.
And the broken link there probably intends to point at this article..
posted by Chuckles at 8:38 PM on June 29, 2008

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