“Father of Chips” Jack Kilby

  In 2000, Jack Kilby (1923-2005) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of the integrated circuit. The Nobel Prize Review Committee rated him as “laying the foundation for modern information technology”, and the “Los Angeles Times” selected him as the first of the “50 Most Influential People on the American Economy in the 20th Century”.
  He is known as the “Father of Chips”. People praised him for “igniting an information age”, making “the most valuable invention in the first half of the 20th century”, revolutionizing the electronics industry, laying the technological foundation for the third industrial revolution, and changing the way of life of mankind.
  When the King of Sweden awarded Jack Kilby the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the first chip 42 years ago, the 77-year-old didn’t buy it at all, claiming that he was just An ordinary engineer, at best an inventor. He confessed that he neither understands physics nor is a scientist.
  Jack Kilby really can’t be called a physicist. After all, he was not born in the academic hall, and he has never discovered any scientific laws, let alone thought about any scientific problems, and he has not even published a decent scientific paper. However, it only has more than 60 patents. However, he is indeed a fairly accomplished engineer.
  He said: “I knew this invention was important, but I never realized it would be so important, let alone it would be so widely used.” Looking back now, it is not difficult to see the idea of ​​​​he invented the chip And the method is not complicated, but he exerts creative thinking, grasps the core of the problem, and applies mathematical skills to solve practical engineering problems.
  In fact, just a few months after he invented the first chip, billionaire scientist Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor invented a more advanced, powerful and practical silicon chip, which was put into commercial use earlier field. This is why Noyce is always unconvinced and wants to use legal means, and even spend 10 years fighting a lawsuit to win the honor of “Father of Chips” for himself. It is a pity that Noyce died in 1990, thus missing the Nobel Prize.
  Jack Kilby sighed in his acceptance speech: “If Noyce was alive, he would definitely share this award with me.” Later generations recognized that Kilby and Noyce were the co-inventors of the chip. .
  On November 8, 1923, Jack Kilby was born into an ordinary family in Jefferson City, Kansas, as the eldest son. His father was a good electrical engineer and also owned a small power company. Kilby grew up watching with admiration and admiration at his father tinkering with all kinds of power generation and transmission equipment in the power plant. He finds it very fun and aspires to be an electrical engineer like his father.
  Kilby had average grades in school. In 1941, Kilby graduated from high school. He originally wanted to enter the best engineering school in the United States, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hoping to become an excellent engineer in the future. However, in the end, he was rejected by a difference of 3 points, and he could only barely enter his parents’ alma mater for undergraduate studies. Soon after school, when the Pearl Harbor incident broke out, Kilby was called up to the army and spent several years on the India-Burma battlefield as a radio communication equipment repairman.
  After the war, Kilby went back to college to study electrical engineering. Many of the professors at that time were soldiers who had actually used radar and radio equipment in the war, and they had strong hands-on ability and attached great importance to solving practical problems. The engineering thinking of the professors had a great influence on Kilby, so he was very aware of the microcircuit technology of the time.
  At the age of 24, Kilby graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. It was in this year that Bell Labs invented the transistor. This meant that the main things Kilby had learned throughout college (tube technology, etc.) were out of date.
  However, even with the most advanced transistors at the time, the assembled device was still very cumbersome and completely unsuitable for large-scale applications, and there were still many miniaturization and even miniaturization manufacturing process issues that needed to be resolved. In addition, the cost of transistors at the time was high and it was difficult to popularize. To this end, Kilby worked at the Central Laboratory in Wisconsin with a keen interest in transistor technology. During this period, he mastered the most advanced printed circuit technology at the time. More importantly, here he completed the preparations needed to invent the chip.
  Secondly, in his spare time, he took part in the evening school of the electrical engineering master’s program at the University of Wisconsin, read a lot of papers on miniaturized circuits, comprehensively learned the knowledge of transistors, and strengthened his belief that transistors are the best devices in electronic circuits. He also received a master’s degree in 1950.
  In 1952, Dahmer of the British Radar Institute put forward the theoretical concept of integrated circuits, that is, the transistors, diodes and other components required by electronic circuits are all fabricated on the same semiconductor. But how to make it a reality from the craftsmanship? At that time, the industry, education and research circles launched fierce competition, and everyone wanted to be the first inventor of the chip. With the development of the times, the concept of microelectronics technology is rapidly changing from scientific theory to engineering thinking.
  Integrated circuits are on the horizon, and the dream of developing microcircuits is getting stronger and stronger in Kilby’s heart. At this time, he found that the Bell Labs where he was located was unable to help him realize his dream. The boss does not want to invest in silicon issues, because the cost of silicon technology is really too high. Kilby firmly believes that only silicon is the electronic material of the future, and only silicon transistors are the future. In May 1958, Kilby moved to Texas Instruments (TI). The company was willing to support his research on “miniaturization of electronic devices” and promised to provide him with enough time and good conditions. Just two months after he joined the company, a genius idea gradually became clear in his mind: using the same material to manufacture passive components (resistors, capacitors) and active devices (transistors) at the same time; these components can also be made in advance in It is built on the same piece of material, and then connected to each other to form a complete circuit.
  What is used as “the same piece of material”? Kilby, of course, chose the semiconductor silicon. Silicon is widely found in rocks, gravel and dust and is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.
  For the details of the chip invention, Kilby made it almost in a day. On July 24, 1958, he organized the idea of ​​the invention into a 5-page experiment log, and drew the relevant design drawings and technological processes. Kilby’s idea was to make a complete circuit out of a single piece of silicon, so the circuit could be scaled down to the limit.
  At the time, everyone recognized the importance of this invention. On August 28, 1958, Kilby completed the key components. On September 12, many TI executives surrounded Kilby with excitement and nervousness to witness the success of the trial. The first chip in human history was finally born! TI immediately announced this exciting news to the world, and Kilby immediately started the patent squatting work. Fortunately, he squatted quickly, otherwise he would be passive in the subsequent lawsuit with Noyce. September 12, 1958 is regarded as the birth day of the chip. It opened the prelude to the information revolution, ushered in a new era in history, and announced the advent of the silicon age.
  After inventing the chip, Kilby did many other meaningful inventions and creations. In 1966, he developed the first pocket calculator. Later, he invented a silicon solar device, but it was not recognized by the market.
  Interestingly, although Kilby developed many electronic devices, he never used them. When calculating, he insisted on using only slide rules; when timing, he refused to use electronic watches, but only used traditional watches. In addition, he always believes that he is just a problem-solving engineer, and solving problems is more important to him than making money. He even admitted that he “has a lack of imagination for problems that can be solved with money.” As long as he can do what he likes, he is satisfied. In terms of life, he has nothing to pursue. A car that has been in use for decades, even if it is in tatters, he is reluctant to retire it and keeps it in the garage as a spare.