Celebrating the IC's 50th anniversary

The integrated circuit has turned 50.

Noyce might have been a part of the prize had he not died 10 years earlier. Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.

Kilby also credits the U.S. military and space program with the final say in the future of the IC because its use in major government projects proved its effectiveness.

The U.S. military used ICs in the Minuteman Missiles built to answer a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, while NASA used ICs in the Apollo moon mission.

There are many other people vital to the creation of the modern chip, including transistor inventors William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain from Bell Laboratories, who shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics, as well as Leo Esaki, a semiconductor researcher at the company that later became known as Sony, who shared a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for work on the tunneling properties of electrons. Esaki also worked at IBM.

Today, the IC is responsible for innovations in technology that have continued to make gadgets smaller, more powerful and less expensive so that device makers can keep up with people's appetite for gadgets such as mobile phones with touch screens that can also compute, play music and take pictures, all for less than US$200.

Looking back over how the IC and the electronics industry have developed since 1958, Kilby quoted a fellow Nobel Prize winner in his lecture, saying: "It's like the beaver told the rabbit as they stared at Hoover Dam. 'No, I didn't build it myself. But it's based on an idea of mine.'"

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