Integrated Circuit Invention

Integrated Circuit Invention

With the basic foundations in place, the story of the IC is able to move on to the actual invention of the integrated circuit itself.

the invention of the IC required many elements to be in place: the transistor, silicon processing technology, ideas about printed circuits, and many more.

Tinkertoy moves on

By 1957 transistors were becoming far more widespread. They were beginning to find their way into more equipment. Even military equipment which tended to use tried and tested technologies was starting to become transistorised in some areas.

With this change it soon became apparent that transistors could give significant improvements in reliability and size reduction. This caused the U.S. Government to update their Tinkertoy project to include various aspects of semiconductor technology.

Their work was split up so that a number of different companies progressed separately, but followed similar lines of research. One of the companies which had been awarded a contract was Texas Instruments, the first company to produce a silicon transistor, and one of the first to produce field effect transistors. It was to this company that a very gifted young engineer named Jack Kilby came about a year after the project had started.

First integrated circuit invented

It was as a result of a quirk in the company bureaucracy that major advances were made. When Jack Kilby joined Texas he had very little leave entitlement. When the annual company shutdown occurred he offered to work there on his own. This gave him the opportunity to follow many of his own ideas through.

Kilby started by making a number of phase shift oscillators on a single chip of germanium. The circuit was simple but quite sufficient to be able to prove the feasibility of the technology. During the shut-down Kilby made tremendous progress, first deciding the pattern to be made on the germanium substrate and then transferring these onto the semiconductor substrate. Then on 12th September 1958 he succeeded in making the first of his circuits work. Following on from this success he made a further batch to prove the repeatability of the process. Again he was successful and produced a high yield from the circuits he had made.

Similar IC inventions

As the U.S. Government had a number of similar contracts with several companies, it was hardly surprising to find that they were reaching the same conclusions.

Robert Noyce, working for Fairchild reasoned that it was foolish to make a large number of transistors on a chip which was then cut up to give the individual devices.

In the manufacture of equipment these devices were then assembled together. Instead he thought it would be more sense to remove the splitting and reassembly stages. Using this reasoning, Noyce applied his knowledge of transistor production technology to lay the foundations of much of today's IC technology. In view of their complementary work, Kilby and Noyce are jointly credited with the invention of the IC.

More impetus for IC invention

Like many revolutionary ideals the IC was not an immediate success. The idea caught the imagination of many engineers and scientists but the reality of their high cost limited their use to a very small number of specialised applications.

It was not until 1961 that the first ICs were marketed. Even then only two companies: Texas and Fairchild were producing any, and at $120 for a typical IC, it was hardly surprising their use was limited.

Then in 1961 President Kennedy announced his vision for space research saying that America would place a man on the moon by the end of the decade. For this to be achieved vast amounts of money had to be made available to develop the new technology needed. One of the prime areas for research was in electronics. Size weight and reliability were some of the prime requirements. As a result of this new impetus more ICs soon became available, although their cost was still very high.

Watch the video: The Fabrication of Integrated Circuits (December 2021).