Jack St. Clair Kilby, a retired engineer with Texas Instruments who invented the integrated circuit (IC) has passed away, aged 81, following a brief battle with cancer.
Kilby invented the first monolithic IC, which served as the foundation for modern microelectronics and drove the industry into a world of miniaturisation and integration that continues today. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his role in inventing the IC.
“If there was ever a seminal invention that transformed not only our industry but our world, it was Jack’s invention of the first [IC],” says TI chairman Tom Engibous.
Kilby was always quick to credit the thousands of engineers who followed him for their impact on growing the industry and changing the world. But for all the changes that the IC wrought—everything from mobiles to computers to PDAs—Kilby was more of a creator of the devices than a user.
“For a guy who started it all, he certainly wasn’t a fanatic about using it,” says Kevin McGarity, former senior VP at TI and a long-time personal friend. “He had no mobile phone, no PDA, and while he did use a computer he was better at describing what went on inside it than using it.”
Kilby joined TI in 1958. As a new employee that summer, he was not yet entitled to the mass August vacation that was customary among TI employees at the time. It was in this relatively quiet time that the idea of the IC first came to Kilby.
“Jack worked in the lab virtually by himself, without the hustle and bustle and all the interruptions” says Pat Weber, former TI vice chairman and a longtime friend of Kilby’s. “That was when he invented the IC. The invention changed the world, but Jack as a man never changed.”
Kilby and TI officials put the first circuit to the test on 12 Sep 1958, with success, marking the invention that transformed the industry.
In 1960, TI announced the first chips for customer evaluation. Two years later, TI won its first major IC contract to design and build a family of 22 special circuits for the US’s Minuteman missile.
“Jack was one of the true pioneers of the semiconductor industry,” says TI president and CEO Rich Templeton. “Every engineer, myself included, owes no small part of their livelihood to the work Jack Kilby did here at [TI]. We will miss him.”
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