Robert N Noyce, July 30, 1959.
The Integrated Circuit a.k.a the ‘Microchip’ has probably made more of an impact to the world of computing than any other single invention in the last century. Thanks to advances in microchip design and the application of Moore’s Law, the modern computers are exponentially more powerful with millions of times the capacity and thousands of times the speed of the first computer chips of the early 1970s.
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (IC) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material, normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip resulted in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, cheaper, and faster than those constructed of discrete electronic components.
This patent was filed by Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor who developed his own idea of an integrated circuit that solved many practical problems that previous versions had not. You might recognise the name Jack Kilby (named inventor on the Texas Instrument calculator patent). Newly employed by Texas Instruments, Kilby recorded his initial ideas concerning the integrated circuit in July 1958, successfully demonstrating the first working integrated example on 12 September 1958.
Noyce's design was made of silicon, whereas Kilby's chip was made of germanium. Noyce credited Kurt Lehovec of Sprague Electric for the principle of p–n junction isolation, a key concept behind the IC. This isolation allows each transistor to operate independently despite being parts of the same piece of silicon.
ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.
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