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Hardware Technology

Integrated Circuit Is 50 Years Old Today 117

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the looks-pretty-to-me dept.
arcticstoat writes "Today marks fifty years since the first integrated circuit, or microchip, was demonstrated by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments on 12 September 1958. The original chip 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 integrated circuit itself was housed in a germanium strip on a 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, but it worked and successfully produced a sine wave on an oscilloscope screen at the demo. Technology hasn't been the same since."
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Integrated Circuit Is 50 Years Old Today

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  • by vigmeister (1112659) on Friday September 12, 2008 @02:49PM (#24982537)

    IC your 50 years old...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Technology hasn't been the same since.

    Naw, ya think?

    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday September 12, 2008 @02:55PM (#24982615)
      Yeah, but they fail to account for the fact that correlation != causation. Technology's been moving along at a fairly rapid pace since the 1800s; perhaps it's just a coincidence that integrated circuits came along around the same time electronics started taking off.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RobKow (1787)

        You're right. Correlation isn't causation. But correlation is nevertheless good EVIDENCE of causation. I'm sick and tired of people parroting "correlation is not causation" every time a correlation is used as evidence for causation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by slackergod (37906)

          Indeed!

          I'd add that correlation usually implies that there is some common cause which is a necessary condition of all the correlated events, even if it is not sufficient to cause all of them by itself.

          People frequently loose sight of the fact that all "correlation != causation" is meant to indicate is that the common cause of correlated events is not required to be one the events themselves, but can be some other external event.

          Whether the cause is bias in the measurement, direct/indirect causation, some re

        • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday September 12, 2008 @03:23PM (#24982967)
          First of all, it was a joke, come on people.

          Secondly, correlation is pretty bad evidence of causation without something else backing it up. Correlations happen all the time for many reasons. There are many orders of magnitude more good correlations than there are causal relationships.
          • by zurmikopa (460568)

            Something else to back it up like another correlation?

            How can you determine the cause of *anything* without a correlation?

            It's just that some correlations have more/fewer variables to take into account to determine how much support it should have for a cause.

            • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday September 12, 2008 @04:20PM (#24983649)
              How about an analysis of those variables that have to be taken into account? That's a good way to back up a correlation that isn't in and of itself another correlation. There's experimentation. That's useful. Logic works too. In the case of IC, we can directly trace the history of electronics and determine that IC played a very large part in it.

              Correlations can be used as supporting evidence, but they're weak to the point of ridicule by themselves. I can't believe this is even an argument on a forum of educated people. The scientific method, at its core, is a method used to remove the uncertainty from correlations in the data so that you can say with confidence that either the correlation in the data is a cause and effect relationship or that the experiment was set up improperly. Perhaps, instead of bitching about correlation not being accepted as evidence of causation, you should praise people for having the skepticism that's driven the scientific revolution of the past few centuries.
          • by oldhack (1037484)

            First of all, it was a joke, come on people.

            Oooooh, I see. Was it a good joke?

            • No. Apparently sarcasm is difficult to catch over the internet, even when someone would preposterously suggest that IC didn't have any effect on technology over the past 5 decades. Oh well.
          • by sgage (109086)

            Everyone who has cancer drinks water.

            Clearly, water causes cancer.

            Sheesh.

        • by caeled (621124)

          You mean profiling works?

      • by spazdor (902907) on Friday September 12, 2008 @03:14PM (#24982865)

        correlation != coincidence as well.

        Other coincidences abound, such as the fact that human flight became viable around the same time as the advent of the aeroplane.

        • by Tablizer (95088)

          correlation != coincidence as well. Other coincidences abound, such as the fact that human flight became viable around the same time as the advent of the aeroplane.

          Triple coincidence; for that's also when the Darwin Award was invented.
               

      • by cens0r (655208) on Friday September 12, 2008 @03:15PM (#24982879) Homepage
        And electronics would have really taken off with lots of vacuum tubes.
        • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Friday September 12, 2008 @03:27PM (#24983015) Homepage

          And electronics would have really taken off with lots of vacuum tubes.

          Maybe not, but think of the Polar Bears. Global warming would have wiped the arctic off the map decades ago if we were still limited to 'valves'. But OTOH, iPods would just sound a lot better.

          • by treeves (963993)
            But you'd need a little red wagon and a long extension cord to enjoy them. Can you imagine a huge magnetic core memory full of mp3's (actually "full of mp3" since one would more than fill it)?
        • by KillerBob (217953)

          Duh. That vac tube powered cell phone is not only a phone, it's a portable furnace!

        • by sploxx (622853)

          Well, a volume of vacuum is lighter than the same volume of air, so just make the parts in your tubes small enough and they'll take off ;-)

      • by mweather (1089505)
        If it's a coincidence, then why has most of the progress since the 50s revolved around the microchip?
  • So what (Score:1, Funny)

    by cromar (1103585)
    At first I thought "so what," but now IC that this is momentous.
    • If we didn't have the Integrated Circuit we wouldn't have laptops (which would be size of refrigerator for same capability as an current laptop), cell phone (remember those "brick car phones" at the beginning of the cell phone era?), and many other things we have take for granted for miniaturization of electronics.

  • Uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bearpaw (13080) on Friday September 12, 2008 @02:56PM (#24982633)

    From TFA:

    As a new recruit at Texus Instruments he wasnâ(TM)t able to take a two-week leave while his other colleagues were off sunning themselves. Instead, he confined himself to his lab alone where he came up with the idea of fabricating all of a circuitâ(TM)s components with a single block of the same material.

    To commemorate Kilby's accomplishment and stimulate ingenuity, Texas Instruments will be canceling vacations for all of their employees.

    • Not a bad idea... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by orthancstone (665890)
      With the hurricane coming to town, their facility seems like a fairly safe space compared to the vacation spots on the beaches in South Texas.
    • Actually..... my girlfriend's dad is an engineer at TI and he's been having a hell of a time trying to get vacation leave this year. (Get accepted, only to have it canceled a week later, varying dates, etc.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That would serve them right.

      Do you realize that 40% of sick days at TI are taken on Mondays and Fridays?

  • I, for one, welcome our new^H^H^H^H 50 year old integrated circuit overlords.

    • Ah yes, that reminds me of the theories that we got the integrated circuit off of the alien ship at roswell. So, here's to 50 years of exploiting alien technologies!
  • The word "Microchip" is one of those non-technical words that always make my inner geek cringe. If that's a microchip, a regular full sized chip must be about 8 foot long? Right? Why not just call it a chip?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Feanturi (99866)
      Why not just call it a chip? Because you don't want to give non-technical people the wrong idea - they don't really go very good with salsa.
    • Because a microchip requires no context to tell you exactly what it is. A 'chip' has all kinds of meanings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If that's a microchip, a regular full sized chip must be about 8 foot long

      I like SI too, but it isn't the be-all end-all of word formation. "Micro" is just the Greek word for "small" - it doesn't have to mean "exactly one millionth the size of a regular ...".

      A "microscope" doesn't have to magnify things exactly one million times (most only do 10-400 fold), nor does it need to allow you to see things one micrometer in size (although some can). Likewise "microeconomics" doesn't imply that it deals with things exactly one millionth the size of "regular" economics.

      So microchip doesn'

      • by rukcus (1261492)
        On the same token, Micronesia isn't a million times smaller than ... Nesia.

        Millipedes don't have a thousand legs either.

        Oddly enough, Megaman is quite smaller than a normal sized man, even tho he is at least a million times more powerful.
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      If that's a microchip, a regular full sized chip must be about 8 foot long? Right? Why not just call it a chip?

      Apparently you were deprived of the Flintstones as a kid.
           

    • The word "Microchip" is one of those non-technical words that always make my inner geek cringe. If that's a microchip, a regular full sized chip must be about 8 foot long? Right? Why not just call it a chip?

      If, as the summary suggests, "microchip" is synonymous with "integrated circuit", then perhaps regular full-sized chips are ones made of discrete transistors. Working on that assumption, there are probably microchips whose chip equivalents would need to be eight feet long.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      The manufacturers of the PIC must really irritate you, they call their entire firm (which makes microcontrollers) Microchip!

    • by chthon (580889)

      Why not just call it an IC and leave the unwashed masses in the dark ?

  • The same guy who did the Silver Surfer? Coool!
    • But in a parallel universe where Japanese won the WWII - that might be true.

      Only, the comic is caller Sirver Surfer there.
      Incredible Hurk on the other hand... I don't think he ever made past issue #1.

  • Roswell (Score:2, Insightful)

    by id09542 (635670)
    Wow, we have come so far since the discovery in Roswell!!!!!!
  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday September 12, 2008 @03:22PM (#24982955) Journal

    For a laugh and some historical perspective, dig out the datasheet for a 555 timer. It's an ancient chip by any standards, but still extant. The designers were obviously rather proud of how many transistors this chip could replace (something like 25), and the datasheet is clearly bragging about this. In a modern context, this is pretty funny. Of course, designing a chip with that kind of lifespan is braggable.

    • The patentless 555 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 2phar (137027) on Friday September 12, 2008 @04:35PM (#24983929)

      Here's an interview [semiconductormuseum.com] with Hans Camenzind, the said desinger of the 555. I thought this part was interesting:

      There are no patents on the 555. Signetics did not want to apply for a patent. You see, the situation with patents in Silicon Valley in 1970 was entirely different than it is now. Everybody was stealing from everybody else. I designed the 555 Signetics produced it, and six months, or before a year later, National had it, Fairchild had it, and nobody paid any attention to patents. The people at Signetics told me they didn't want to apply for a patent, because what would happen if they tried to enforce that patent, is the people from Fairchild would come back with a Manhattan-sized telephone book and say "These are our patents, now let's see what you're violating". It was a house of cards - if you blew on it, the whole thing collapsed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nathanbp (599369)

        Here's an interview [semiconductormuseum.com] with Hans Camenzind, the said desinger of the 555. I thought this part was interesting:

        There are no patents on the 555. Signetics did not want to apply for a patent. You see, the situation with patents in Silicon Valley in 1970 was entirely different than it is now. Everybody was stealing from everybody else. I designed the 555 Signetics produced it, and six months, or before a year later, National had it, Fairchild had it, and nobody paid any attention to patents. The people at Signetics told me they didn't want to apply for a patent, because what would happen if they tried to enforce that patent, is the people from Fairchild would come back with a Manhattan-sized telephone book and say "These are our patents, now let's see what you're violating". It was a house of cards - if you blew on it, the whole thing collapsed.

        Actually, that sounds exactly like patents in Silicon Valley right now. Many software companies are gathering defensive patents to countersue with, just like that interview describes. Interesting to see that the practice dates back to early ICs.

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        Signetics told me they didn't want to apply for a patent, because what would happen if they tried to enforce that patent, is the people from Fairchild would come back with a Manhattan-sized telephone book and say "These are our patents, now let's see what you're violating". It was a house of cards - if you blew on it, the whole thing collapsed.

        Well, it seems somebody since started blowing...
               

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alioth (221270)

      It's not just the 555 either, although I suppose that's the one still in production in its purest form (the bipolar 555 is still made in quantities of hundreds of millions per year). 74 series is still in wide production (although in CMOS rather than TTL, with versions now capable of handling signals >!GHz), so is 4000 series CMOS (a handy family, while slow, it has a very wide voltage range), and so are more complex things like the Z80 CPU and 6502 - the 'classic' Z80 is still produced in 40 pin DIL (al

  • Don't transistor me bro!
  • by chipace (671930) on Friday September 12, 2008 @03:31PM (#24983057)

    I was debating a coworker about the greatest invention of the 20th century, we both agreed that the miniskirt ranks higher than the transistor. It's interesting that they both came out around the same time.

    • by skelly33 (891182)
      While I would not be inclined to disagree, it is worth noting that possibly the most daunting conundrum facing humanity for the twenty first century is the fact that while the number of transistors packed into an IC is approaching infinity, the annual reduction in miniskirt lengths is rapidly approaching zero; we are in desperate need of a global miniskirt paradigm shift to offset this most disturbing reality.
    • transistor: 1948

      Miniskirt: 1968

      I know it was a while ago, but 20 yrs is still kinda large time span.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      greatest invention of the 20th century, we both agreed that the miniskirt ranks higher than the transistor... they both came out around the same time.

      If they both shrank at the same rate, then it would be merely a dust grain on her [bleep]. Something jammed up the progress.
           

    • Higher the Miniskirt, better it is.

  • by COMON$ (806135) *
    [Picard puts his hand on the Phoenix]

    Captain Jean-Luc Picard: It's a boyhood fantasy... I must have seen this ship hundreds of times in the Smithsonian but I was never able to touch it.

    Lieutenant Commander Data: Sir, does tactile contact alter your perception of the Phoenix?

    Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Oh, yes! For humans, touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way, make it seem more real.

    [Data also puts his hand on The Phoenix]

    Lieutenant Commander Data: I am detecting imperfections in the

    • by COMON$ (806135) *
      Man that sucks evidentally someone posted this before me, I actually picked this out in the mysterious future because it was perfect but got busy and forgot to submit it quickly.
  • Real Electronics you can see. I want my transistors right out in the open, not hiding like some yellow bellied worm. Get them right out there, where I can twittle and twaddle them. Who knows what voltages are insides some of those chips.... I want my radios big 'n heavy. Real techs use 100 watt soldering irons.
    • by klmth (451037)

      Please, go ahead. The rest of us will be reaping the benefits of miniaturization.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Real Electronics you can see. I want my transistors right out in the open, not hiding like some yellow bellied worm. Get them right out there, where I can twittle and twaddle them.

      Are you by chance related to the deity who designed the scrotum? Because of it, women can exact revenge in a painful way. Thanks, Jerk!

           

      • Are you by chance related to the deity who designed the scrotum? Because of it, women can exact revenge in a painful way. Thanks, Jerk!

        Yes, He is my Father. Hence, my name Baruch Atta. Go back to Hebrew school.
        Besides, I am glad that I have scroti. Maybe you should grow a pair.

  • Quote: "it measured 7/16in by 1/16in" and that folks is why we use the metric system in the rest of the world
    • by ZERO1ZERO (948669)
      Often it is the case where your point would be valid, but come on, if anything using the imperial unit in this case makes it clearer..

      Take the equivelent metric unit representation

      1/16 = 1.875 mm

      7/16 = 11.1125 mm, or say 1.8x11.1 mm.

      One must know what the size of a mm or an 1/16 inch is to make sense of either measurement.

      The imperial measurement it is easy to read that it is 7 time longer than it is wide, i.e quite a thin rectangle. One has to perform mental calcs to get the same info from the

  • Get off my lawn!

  • Has anyone done an analysis demonstrating the size and power consumption of a machine equivalent to a modern CPU but composed of discrete components? Or even valves/tubes?
    • I worked out that it would take over 200 relays to make a BCD clock like the one at think geek. 45 per JK flip-flop 1 flip flop per bit, and several carry gates.

  • ah, not quite (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Friday September 12, 2008 @04:26PM (#24983755)

    The TI invention was not what we would consider an "IC". It had components, but it wasnt practical to mass produce. Not even TI followed up on its development.

    The real practical IC, with photoetched traces on a planar silicon substrate was developed by Fairchild.

    • by IflyRC (956454)

      The TI invention was not what we would consider an "IC". It had components, but it wasnt practical to mass produce. Not even TI followed up on its development.

      The real practical IC, with photoetched traces on a planar silicon substrate was developed by Fairchild.

      I never realized Morgan Fairchild was so intelligent.

  • TI's also starting up a new R&D lab [ti.com] in honor of the occasion. The sent out an email inviting employees to apply for positions, but I'm just a product engineer so I don't get to do research. :-(

  • by Tablizer (95088)

    But does it run Linux?.....okay, Minux? .... Nanix?

  • can relat (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Friday September 12, 2008 @10:30PM (#24986669) Homepage Journal

    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.'

    I say teh same about my posts that git modded way up
         

  • Hmmm, it's etched with a tiny "Kilby Was Here".

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