It took 42 years, but in 2000, Jack St. Clair Kilby was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics for his 1958 invention. In addition to the microchip, Kilby is also known for patenting the portable electronic calculator and the thermal printer used in data terminals.
It is hard to imagine a world without the chip, especially if you never lived in that “analog” age of human dinosaurs. But there was really such a time, believe it or not. Typewriters, record players, pencils and paper, slide rules and rulers, book dictionaries…lots of relics from the past. And this is who made the new life possible: Jack St. Clair Kilby.
Jack St. Clair Kilby�s invention of the monolithic integrated circuit � the microchip � is regarded by many as one of the most significant inventions of the 20th Century.
Kilby�s breakthrough invention revolutionized the electronics industry. It laid the conceptual and technical foundation for the entire field of modern microelectronics and made sophisticated, high-speed computers possible.
Among the items included in the Kilby Papers is his own �show-and-tell� kit in which he demonstrates the evolution of electronics from the vacuum tube to the microchip.
For some fifty years after the turn of the century, the bulky, fragile, and power-hungry vacuum tubes (on the right) dominated everyday electronics, only to be replaced after World War II by more reliable and far smaller transistors (center). But fabricating transistors was time-consuming and they were costly and still unreliable. Kilby�s breakthrough chip (left) incorporated all the necessary electronic components found in both tubes and transistors onto a single, small crystal of silicon, thus truly starting today�s information age.