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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jack St. Clair Kilby, 1923-2005

Jack Kilby died yesterday:
Nobel laureate Jack Kilby, whose invention of the integrated circuit ushered in the electronics age and made possible the microprocessor, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 81. Kilby died Monday, according to Texas Instruments Inc., where he worked for many years. Before the integrated circuit, electronic devices relied on bulky and fragile circuitry, including glass vacuum tubes. In the late 1950s, there was considerable interest -- especially in the military -- in making devices smaller. Kilby's fingernail-size integrated circuit, a forerunner of the microchip used in today's computers, replaced the bulky and unreliable switches and tubes.
Just think of the impact that the integrated circuit has had on our daily lives. I was awakened this morning by an electronic clock radio, shaved with an chip-equipped electric razor, had a cup of coffee from a microprocessor-controlled coffee pot, set my electronic thermostat, got in my chip-laden car, and drove to work, where I used a fax machine, computer, PDA and cell phone, all made possible and cost-effective because of integrated circuits. In case you're not yet convinced of Kilby's enormous contribution to society, just think where you'd have to get your news if it wasn't for the integrated circuit.

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