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Jack Kilby: Inventor of the MicrochipMany people living in this fast-paced, globally-connected world often take for granted the amount of technology that goes into the little “gadgets” they love. They also do not often think about the people that made this technology possible. Throughout history, there have been only a handful of persons that have truly altered the way in which a society operates and lives. Jack Kilby’s invention of the monolithic integrated circuit, or better known as the microchip, gave birth to a new technological field of modern microelectronics. His ingenious work at Texas Instruments over forty-five years ago, was a breakthrough that has led to the “sophisticated high-speed computers and large-capacity semiconductor memories of today’s information age.”Born on November 8, 1923 in Jefferson City, Missouri, Jack Kilby was a determined intellectual. After receiving a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Mr. Kilby decided to get his M.S. in the same field from the University of Wisconsin. He then began his career in Milwaukee in 1947, working in the Centralab Division of Globe Union Inc. “developing ceramic-base, silk-screen circuits for consumer electronic products.” 1958 was significant for Jack Kilby due to the fact that he began working in Dallas for Texas Instruments (TI) early that year. During the summer of that same year, using borrowed materials, Mr. Kilby envisioned and constructed the very first electronic circuit in which “all of the components, both active and passive, were fabricated in a single piece of semiconductor material half the size of a paper clip.” On September 12, 1958, history was made in a TI laboratory after he successfully demonstrated the ability of that first microchip. Mr. Kilby showed the TI management a piece of germanium with an oscilloscope attached, turned it on, and the oscilloscope demonstrated a continuous sine wave, “proving that his integrated circuit worked.”Jack Kilby proceeded to “pioneer military, industrial, and commercial applications of microchip technology.” He was head of the teams that built both the first military system and the first computer featuring integrated circuits. Mr. Kilby then went on to co-invent the hand-held calculator. However, in 1970, he wanted some time off to develop his own inventions, so he decided to take a leave of absence from TI. He began to investigate the idea that silicon technology could be used to generate electrical power from sunlight. He would later incorporate this function into handheld calculator technology.

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