Texas Ingenuity History

 

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Best Texas Hotels

The Adolphus Hotel (Dallas; tel. 800/221-9083 or 214/742-8200)

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The Driskill (Austin; tel. 800/252-9367 or 512/474-5911)

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Lake Austin Spa Resort (Austin; 1705 S. Quinlan Park Rd.; tel. 800/847-5637)

Cibolo Creek Ranch (Shafter; tel. 432/229-3737)

Gage Hotel (Marathon; tel. 432/386-4205)

Historic - The Excelsior House (Jefferson; 903/665-2513 or 800/490-7270)


 

 

 

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Jack Kilby Invents the Future

Jack St. Clair Kilby reigns as the Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell of Texas all rolled into one. His world-changing invention not only put Texas Instruments Company (TI) on the mega-company map, it revolutionized American living as pervasively as Edison's electric lights and Bell's telephone combined.

Look it up - it's patent number 3,138,743. The tiny device, called the integrated circuit (IC) or the microchip, is a Texas invention that controls the pulse of virtually every electronic device today - computers, cell phones, televisions, satellites, automobiles, iPods, iPhones, iPads - any device that thinks, calculates, pulses, beeps, or communicates.

It all began during a missed summer vacation. Kilby went to work for the electronics company Texas Instruments in early 1958. At that time, the transistor had been in use for about ten years - created at Bell Labs in 1947. Although transistors were interesting and powerful when combined in large numbers, they were far too expensive for everyday commercial use. Transistors were basically a glob of semiconductor substance called germanium with several wires sticking out. They were about the size of a pencil eraser and cost more than their weight in gold.

That summer of 1958, when most of the TI scientists went on a two-week July vacation, Kilby had to stay in the lab since he didn't yet qualify for vacation time. He spent that missed vacation period pondering this new and interesting electronic component called a transistor. Fortunately, like Isaac Newton's time in the English countryside when he observed his legendary falling apple, Kilby's time-alone-experience also produced an idea of considerable gravity. He knew that the current process of hand-soldering several transistors, resistors, and capacitors onto a circuit board made every electronic device expensive. But what if there were a simpler, cheaper, and more efficient way to combine these three components? It might be possible, he reasoned. After all, the three components - the transistor, the resistor, and capacitors could all be fashioned out of the same semiconductor material. Furthermore, in theory, they could all be created on the same semiconductor chip and could communicate with each other if they were connected with short wires. But would it work?

Continues. . .

Together, history accepts both Noyce and Kilby as inventors of the Integrated Circuit. Today, TI and Intel share certain patents related to the IC (and reap lots of royalties).

 

Jack Kilby Integrated Circuit

The first Integrated Circuit, created by Jack Kilby in 1958.

(Courtesy Texas Instruments.)

For several years, the new Integrated Circuit provided little more than entertainment at scientific conventions. . .It would become the first in a line of progressively more powerful microprocessor chips, including the "8088" chip (containing a whopping 29,000 transistors) that was used in the history-making first IBM Personal Computer in 1981.

Jack Kilby

Jack Kilby with some of the inventions he inspired at Texas Instruments. (Courtesy Texas Instruments.)

Today the computer chips inside your home computer may house more than 100 million transistors in a wafer-sized chip.

Continues. . .

Texas Tidbit: Among his many honors, Jack St. Claire Kilby received two of America's most prestigious honors in science and engineering. In 1970, he received the National Medal of Science. In 1982, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (which includes members such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers). In addition, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit.

The story continues in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...

 

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