The integrated circuit or popularly referred to as the microchip plays a significant role in the fruition of the devices that many people enjoy today. It is rather hard to synthesize the introduction of information age without referring to this invention. This breakthrough profoundly changed the world as people see it today, and it is perhaps appropriate to go through the life and give credit to the man that made this breakthrough possible—Jack Kilby. Early Life and Education Born Jack St.
Clair Kilby on the 8th of November 1923 at Jefferson City, Missouri, Kilby grew up and spent most of his childhood at Great Bend, Kansas. His father ran a small electric company that served local customers within the western part of Kansas. Back in high school, Kilby’s hometown experienced an ice storm that knocked down major power lines in their area, which led to the loss of power and phone service. Several amateur radio operators worked closely with Kilby’s father to keep their business running and at the same time help people with their telephone service.
When he saw how fascinating the amateur radio was, this particular episode in his life sparked his interest in the field of electronics (Frangsmyr) After graduating from Great Bend High School in 1941, Kilby went to Boston, Massachusetts to take the entrance examination at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, he was three points short for the institute’s 500 passing grade, and instead decided to enroll at the University of Illinois with a degree in electrical engineering (“Biography: Jack S. Kilby”). Only four months after he entered University of Illinois, United States participated in World War II.
Kilby enlisted in the army, serving at both the Signal Corps and the Office of Strategic Services, and he became the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. When war ended, Kilby returned to University of Illinois where he studied vacuum tube technology and engineering physics and finally completed his electrical engineering degree in 1947 (“Biography: Jack S. Kilby”). Work Experiences Right after graduating from college, Kilby began his career at Milwaukee’s Centralab Division of Globe Union Inc. where he developed ceramic-base, silk-screen circuits for products such as television, radio, and hearing aid.
While working at Centralab, Kilby attended evening courses at University of Wisconsin, where he later earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering. During his time at Centralab, the field of electronics had been dominated by vacuum tube technology. However, vacuum tubes posited inherent limitations; they were expensive, bulky, and fragile. It was not until 1947 when the issue about vacuum tubes was resolved. The Bell Telephone Laboratories invented transistors which were miniscule in comparison to the vacuum tube. They were reliable, long lasting, and consumed less power.
Kilby took the opportunity to experiment with the transistor and other developing technologies at Centralab. He began studying transistor technology at home and spearheaded a three-person team charged with incorporating transistor technology in the products developed by Centralab. However, while Centralab focused on applying transistors in small devices, Kilby remained positive about the broader capabilities of such technology (“Biography: Jack S. Kilby”). Kilby began searching for a new position where he could fully articulate the possibilities of transistors.
By 1958, after refusing offers from IBM and Motorola, Kilby began his career at Texas Instrument (TI) in Dallas—the only company that allowed him to work full time on electronic component miniaturization (“Biography: Jack S. Kilby”). Major Inventions/ Achievements Kilby arrived at TI just before the company had their traditional-week vacation period. As a new employee, Kilby was not yet eligible for such vacation. During this time, he conceived and developed the first electronic circuit in which all components, both passive and active, were placed in a single semiconductor material that is half the size of a paper clip.
His invention was noted as the ultimate solution for the circuit design problem posted by the transistor technology known as tyranny of numbers (Ament). On September 12, 1958, Kilby successfully demonstrated the very first simple microchip. The success of Kilby’s invention won a place in the military market. He headed teams that built the military systems and the first computer that utilized integrated circuits. He later co-invented the electronic portable calculator and the thermal printer used in portable data terminal.
In 1970, Jack Kilby took a leave of absence from TI to become an independent inventor. Among his major explorations include the electronic check writer, the paging system, and the use of silicon technology to generate power from sunlight, and by 2000, Kilby held more than 50 patents. He was appointed as professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M University in 1978 and remained there until 1984 (Ament). Kilby officially retired from Texas Instruments in 1980’s, but he maintained a significant involvement with the company that launched his stature. He also served as a director on few boards.
Jack St. Clair Kilby passed away on June 20, 2005 in Dallas, Texas after a brief battle with cancer (Frangsmyr). Major Awards Received Because of Kilby’s unparalleled contribution in the field of science and technology, he received various accolades in honor of his genius. In recognition of his outstanding achievements, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) awarded him the Fellow Grade Award and the David Sarnoff Medal in 1966, the IEEE Cledo Brunetti Award (1978), IEEE Consumer Electronic Award (1980), IEEE Centennial Medal (1984), and the 1986 IEEE Medal of Honor.
Kilby was also the recipient of the Stuart Ballentine Medal of Franklin Institute (1966) and the Holy Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in1982 and 1989 (Texas Instrument). Jack Kilby was also awarded two of the nation’s most prestigious honors in the field of science and engineering: The National Medal of Science (1970) and the National Medal of Technology (1990). He was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1982, was awarded with the Kyoto Prize by the Inamori Foundation in 1993 and recipient of both Washington Award and Vladimir Karapetoff Award in 1999.
Alongside these awards Kilby also held various honorary doctorate degrees from different universities (“Jack Kilby”). Although Kilby worked as an engineer and not as a physicist, in 2000, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Russian and American Physicists Zhores I. Alferov and Herbert Kroemer respectively. This accolade further cemented his position as one of the best inventors of all time (“Biography: Jack S. Kilby”). The impact of Kilby’s invention has been far-reaching.
Most of the technological devices that people enjoy today could not have been developed without his integrate circuit. Kilby’s microchip served as the springboard for the fruition of modern computer, which in turn benefited various industries. Without Jack Kilby’s contributions, humans may not have achieved the pinnacle of technological advancement today. Works Cited Ament, Phil. “Jack Kilby. ” The Great Idea Finder. The Great Idea Finder, 12 Oct. 2006. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
“Biography: Jack S. Kilby. ” Answers. com. Answers Corporation, 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. Frangsmyr, Tore, ed. “Autobiography: Jack S. Kilby, the Nobel Prize in Physics 2000. ” Le Prix Nobel. Nobel Foundation, 2001. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. “Jack Kilby. ” Texas Instruments. Texas Instruments, 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. Jack Kilby (circa 1958). Texas Instruments. Texas Instruments, 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. Jack Kilby Holding Chips. Texas Instruments. Texas Instruments, 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
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