During late summer 1958, many of Texas Instruments’ employees were enjoying the company’s annual two-week vacation. Not Jack Kilby, who as a recently hired engineer, had not accrued enough vacation time and kept on working in TI’s Semiconductor Components division in Dallas. TI was developing the micro-module program with the U.S. Army Signal Corps, but was not quite successful in finding cost-effective methods to miniaturize circuit components.
Kilby used the peace and quiet at the lab to draw several sketches for alternative types of semiconductors, which he presented to Willis Adcock, the manager of the SC development department when the latter returned from vacation. With Adcock’s approval, Kilby designed different versions of silicon circuits, ultimately arriving at a phase-shift oscillator circuit that integrated resistors and capacitors onto a single bar of germanium. Three oscillators were successfully tested on September 12, 1958 – the birthdate of the integrated circuit.
Though skeptical of the invention at first, the electronics industry would be revolutionized by the integrated circuit, also known as the microchip. Over the next decades, Kilby’s device led to the miniaturization of computer technology and the emergence of microelectronics. A wide array of fields, from aeronautics to defense and education have grown to rely on the miniature device, and products that we now take for granted would not be possible without the invention of the IC: the hand-held calculator, the electronic watch, the mobile phone, and the digital camera are only a few examples of devices that use the microchip.
The DeGolyer Library holds the Texas Instruments archive, which contains records related to the invention of many of these products, as well as a copy of Kilby’s notebook. Jack Kilby’s papers are also part of DeGolyer’s collection of manuscripts.