Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Microchip Pioneer Kilby Dies

Filed under
Obits

Four decades after inventing the integrated circuit — the basis of every electronic device today — Jack Kilby believed that the invention found him as much as the other way around.

Nobel Prize winner Jack Kilby was a leader in technology, paving the way for the digital age of personal computing.

"Humankind eventually would have solved the matter," he wrote upon accepting the Nobel Prize in 2000. "But I had the fortunate experience of being the first person with the right idea and the right resources at the right time in history."

Kilby, who died Monday at 81 after a brief battle with cancer, gave birth to one of the most dynamic industries in history. His integrated circuit, first demonstrated on Sept. 12, 1958, made possible computers, the space program, the Internet and such everyday items as digital watches and Furbys.

"Few people can say they really changed the world. Kilby would be one of them," says Gordon Eubanks, CEO of tech company Oblix.

Kilby began his career with a small electronics maker in Milwaukee in 1947, the same year the transistor was invented at Bell Laboratories. In 1958, he took a job with Texas Instruments in Dallas.

The company had been working on a problem: As engineers tried to make more complex devices, they kept adding individual transistors, capacitors and other components to circuit boards, soldering each of the tiny wires together. As the boards got more intricate, they were hard to make and unreliable.

That summer, new employee Kilby famously had no vacation time and had to work during TI's annual two-week summer shutdown. He used the time to work on his radical idea of building all the components into a single part.

"I was sitting at a desk, probably stayed there a little longer than usual," he said in an interview posted on TI's Web site. "Most of it formed pretty clearly during the course of that day. There was some slight skepticism (from his supervisors), but basically they realized its importance." Kilby put together a prototype — one transistor and other components on a slice of germanium about half the size of a paperclip. On Sept. 12, he demonstrated his integrated circuit for TI management. It was publicly unveiled on March 6, 1959.

It must have been the right moment for the invention, because someone else had been working on it, too — Robert Noyce, then of Fairchild Semiconductor. Noyce put his on silicon, solving some of the potential manufacturing problems of Kilby's design, and filed for a patent about six months after Kilby. Both patents, slightly different, were granted, which set off legal battles until the two agreed to cross-license to each other.

"As notable nowadays is the gentlemanly way Kilby and Noyce and their companies finally agreed to share the title of co-inventor and the royalties," says Harold Evans, author of They Made America: Two Centuries of Innovators from the Steam Engine to the Search Engine.

Noyce went on to co-found Intel. Atypical in tech history, Intel and TI both remain leaders in making the inventions they engendered.

In the early 1960s, TI challenged Kilby to create a product that would demonstrate to consumers the value of integrated circuits. So Kilby came up with the electronic calculator. It cost nearly $500 when introduced. In his later years, Kilby would say he was amazed such calculators now cost around $4.

"The cost decrease (of computer chips) has been a factor of millions to one," Kilby said in the interview.

Kilby won dozens of awards, including the Nobel Prize in 2000 and the National Medal of Technology in 1990. He also continued to inspire major players in technology.

"I only met him once or twice, but meeting him the first time left an impression," Andy Grove, former chairman of Intel, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. "It was at an electrical engineering meeting. He was sitting at a table, having drinks, and I was invited to join by someone. I was maybe a year out of school (very junior) and Kilby was a towering figure, both metaphorically and physically. He reached out to me, was very friendly, down-to-earth, and best of all, he wore a pair of hearing aids, just like I did in those days. The combination worked to break the ice, and we had a good technical conversation."

"His death is a great loss to the engineering and scientific communities," says Gordon Bell, who helped invent the minicomputer while at Digital Equipment in the 1960s and now works at Microsoft Research. "As an engineer, the inspiration and my admiration comes from (Kilby) being the co-inventor of one of the greatest inventions of all time."

By Kevin Maney
USA TODAY

More in Tux Machines

Server/OSS: Data Storage, OpenStack, Nextcloud, Puppet

  • Open Source Storage: 64 Applications for Data Storage
    As data storage needs continue to grow and many organizations move toward software-defined infrastructure, more enterprises are using open source software to meet some of their storage needs. Projects like Hadoop, Ceph, Gluster and others have become very common at large enterprises. Home users and small businesses can also benefit from open source storage software. These applications can make it possible to set up your own NAS or SAN device using industry-standard hardware without paying the high prices vendors charge for dedicated storage appliances. Open source software also offers users the option to set up a cloud storage solution where they have control over security and privacy, and it can also offer affordable options for backup and recovery.
  • OpenStack Moves Beyond the Cloud to Open Infrastructure
    The OpenStack Summit got underway on May 21, with a strong emphasis on the broader open-source cloud community beyond just the OpenStack cloud platform itself. At the summit, the OpenStack Foundation announced that it was making its open-source Zuul continuous development, continuous integration (CI/CD) technology a new top level standalone project. Zuul has been the underlying DevOps CI/CD system that has been used for the past six years, to develop and test the OpenStack cloud platform.
  • OpenStack makes Zuul continuous delivery tool its second indie project
    The OpenStack Foundation has launched its Zuul continuous delivery and integration tool as a discrete project. Zuul is therefore Foundation’s second project other than OpenStack itself. The first was Kata Containers. Making Zuul a standalone effort therefore advance’s the Foundation’s ambition to become a bit like the Linux and Apache Foundations, by nurturing multiple open source projects.
  • OpenStack spins out its Zuul open source CI/CD platform
    There are few open-source projects as complex as OpenStack, which essentially provides large companies with all the tools to run the equivalent of the core AWS services in their own data centers. To build OpenStack’s various systems the team also had to develop some of its own DevOps tools, and, in 2012, that meant developing Zuul, an open-source continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) platform. Now, with the release of Zuul v3, the team decided to decouple Zuul from OpenStack and run it as an independent project. It’s not quite leaving the OpenStack ecosystem, though, as it will still be hosted by the OpenStack Foundation.
  • Nextcloud 13: How to Get Started and Why You Should
    In its simplest form, the Nextcloud server is "just" a personal, free software alternative to services like Dropbox or iCloud. You can set it up so your files are always accessible via the internet, from wherever you are, and share them with your friends. However, Nextcloud can do so much more. In this article, I first describe what the Nextcloud server is and how to install and set it up on GNU/Linux systems. Then I explain how to configure the optional Nextcloud features, which may be the first steps toward making Nextcloud the shell of a complete replacement for many proprietary platforms existing today, such as Dropbox, Facebook and Skype.
  • Why use Puppet for automation and orchestration
    Puppet the company bills Puppet the automation tool as the de facto standard for automating the delivery and ongoing operation of hybrid infrastructure. That was certainly true at one time: Puppet not only goes back to 2005, but also currently claims 40,000 organizations worldwide as users, including 75 percent of the Fortune 100. While Puppet is still a very strong product and has increased its speed and capabilities over the years, its competitors, in particular Chef, have narrowed the gap. As you might expect from the doyenne of the IT automation space, Puppet has a very large collection of modules, and covers the gamut from CI/CD to cloud-native infrastructure, though much of that functionality is provided through additional products. While Puppet is primarily a model-based system with agents, it supports push operations with Puppet Tasks. Puppet Enterprise is even available as a service on Amazon.

today's howtos

Oregan unveils new middleware for Linux STBs and Android TV

Oregan Networks, a provider of digital TV software services, has announced the launch of a new set-top box client middleware product for pay-TV operators called SparQ. The software is designed to work on the most challenging and resource-limited STB platforms in the field, making it feasible to introduce new OTT content services and applications on customer devices that were deployed as part of the first wave of IPTV and hybrid broadcast deployments. Read more

KDE Development Updates

  • Revisiting my talk at FOSSASIA summit, 2018
    Earlier this year, I had the chance to speak about one of KDE community’s cool projects that is helpding developers erase the line between desktop and mobile/tablet UI’s with ease. I’m referring to the Kirigami UI framework – a set of QtQuick components targetted at the mobile as well as desktop platforms. This is particularly important to KDE and a lot of projects are now migrating towards a Kirigami UI, particularly keeping in mind the ability to run the applications on the Plasma Mobile.
  • This Week in KDE, Part 2 : OYLG, Workspace KCM, Single/Double Click
    Last weekend, I went to İstanbul to attend Özgür Yazılım ve Linux Günleri (Free Software and Linux Days 2018) to represent LibreOffice. We had 3 presentations during the event about LibreOffice Development and The Open Document Format. We had booth setup with stickers, flyers, roll-up etc. These were all thanks to The Document Foundation’s supports! You can find detailed information about the event from here : https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Events/2018/OYLG2018
  • Watching the Detectives
    For instance, Kevin Ottens has been writing about understanding the KDE community by the “green blobs” method, showing who is active when. Lays Rodrigues has written about using Gource to show Plasma growing up. Nate Graham describes the goings-on in the KDE community nearly every week. Those are, roughly: a metric-, a visual-, and a story-based approach to understanding the community, over different timescales. But understanding of a system doesn’t come from a single dimension, from a single axis of measurement. It comes from mixing up the different views to look the system as a whole.
  • Managing cooking recipes
    I like to cook. And sometimes store my recipes. Over the years I have tried KRecipes, kept my recipes in BasKet notes, in KJots notes, in more or less random word processor documents. I liked the free form entering recipes in various notes applications and word processor documents, but I lacked some kind of indexing them. What I wanted was free-ish text for writing recipes, and some thing that could help me find them by tags I give them. By Title. By how I organize them. And maybe by Ingredient if I don’t know how to get rid of the soon-to-be-bad in my refridgerator.