Celebrating the IC's 50th anniversary

The integrated circuit has turned 50.

The technology behind almost every electronics device in the world, the integrated circuit or IC, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Friday. Its enduring success is thanks in part to two "nice guys" who developed it, and their early efforts to convince an industry that at first reviled their idea.

The two men, Jack Kilby from Texas Instruments (TI) and Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel but head of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductor when the IC was invented, long lived with the title of "co-inventor" of the integrated circuit.

The IC industry, or chip industry, is now globally closing in on US$300 billion a year in revenue, and the information technology industry behind it just wouldn't be what it is without it.

Chips are the brains and nervous system of every electronics device around, from computers to iPhones and are finding their way into more devices all the time, including cars and refrigerators, to make them more energy efficient.

In 1960, computers not even as powerful as a US$1,000 PC today still required the space of an entire room and cost US$10 million. That all changed due to ICs.

In the 1950s, the electronics industry had just started using transistors, diodes, resistors and other electronic components instead of vacuum tubes, but the new circuitry was still bulky and expensive.

Kilby came up with the idea to combine this circuitry on one chip.

"In 1958, my goals were simple," said Kilby in a lecture given after accepting the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000, "to lower the cost, simplify the assembly and make things smaller and more reliable."

Noyce integrated transistors and other components onto a single piece of silicon to form a chip. Prior to his idea, Fairchild made transistors on silicon, but then cut them out and sold them separately.

The world's first chips were born.

By most accounts, Kilby showed the first working integrated circuit to TI executives on Sept. 12, 1958, the reason today is viewed as the 50th anniversary.

But Noyce and other researchers at Fairchild Semiconductor, including Intel's other co-founder, Gordon Moore, had been working on their own concepts and showed off their integrated circuit shortly thereafter.

Moore has argued that Noyce's IC was more practical and easier to manufacture than Kilby's original.

In any case, their invention could easily have been destroyed by patent battles and fighting over who would get credit for the IC and potentially lucrative royalties.

At first, it looked as though that might happen.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?