TI launches Kilby Labs, marks 50 years of integrated circuits

Texas Instruments commemorates the 50th anniversary of the integrated circuit with the opening of Kilby Labs, honoring Nobel-prize-winning inventor of the integrated circuit, Jack Kilby.

Jack Kilby
Jack Kilby

Texas Instruments commemorated the 50th anniversary of the integrated circuit with the opening Friday of Kilby Labs, honoring Jack Kilby, the Nobel-prize-winning inventor of the seminal electronic device.

As a new TI employee in 1958, Kilby was forced to work during the traditional company summer vacation. During that time, he built the first integrated circuit, now the basic building block of everything from 3G cell phones to supercomputers.

The first IC was crude: a sliver of germanium with protruding wires glued to a glass slide (see image below). When Kilby applied electricity to the circuit, "an unending sine wave undulated across his oscilloscope screen. In that instant...he had successfully integrated all of the parts of an electronic circuit onto a single device made from the same semiconductor material," according to TI's Web site.

The first integrated circuit built by Jack Kilby
The first integrated circuit built by Jack Kilby Texas Instruments

Robert Noyce, who co-founded Intel, also created an integrated circuit, about six months after Kilby. At that time, Noyce was at Fairchild Semiconductor (which he also co-founded). Noyce's chip, made of silicon, overcame some practical problems that Kilby's germanium-based device did not.

Kilby won the inventor's "Triple Crown": the Nobel Prize in physics; the National Medal of Science; and the National Medal of Technology. He held more than 60 patents including one for the portable electronic calculator, which TI invented in 1967. He died in 2005 at the age of 81 after a battle with cancer.

Kilby was one of the co-inventors of the electronic calculator
Kilby was one of the co-inventors of the electronic calculator Texas Instruments

Kilby Labs will be located on TI's Dallas North Campus, where Kilby first designed the chip. The new facility will bring together university researchers and leading TI engineers to discover new ways to use the IC--"from creating new ways to make health care more mobile to harnessing new power sources to enabling more fuel-efficient vehicles," TI said.

TI has named Ajith Amerasekera as director of the labs. Amerasekera, who is a TI fellow, joined the company in 1991 and holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and physics.

At TI's headquarters, the original lab where Kilby worked and made his discovery of the first integrated circuit has been re-created on-site. TI has also made a donation toward Jack Kilby's memorial statue in his hometown of Great Bend, Kan.

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