November 8 – Jack Kilby

On November 8, 1923, Jack St. Clair Kilby was born in Great Bend, Kansas.  As with any great inventor or person, growing up, no one knew how important Kilby would become to the world.  Growing up, Kilby watched his father run a small electric company that served some of the wide spread residents of rural Kansas.  When an ice storm knocked out many of the poles that carried the telephone and electric lines, his father used an amateur radio operator to help him communicate with the customers effected.  This slight exposure to the realm of electronics sparked a high school-aged Jack.  Because of his interest in electronics, he decided to pursue a degree in electrical engineering, which mainly focused on electric power.  However, Kilby also elected to take several courses in vacuum tube engineering classes.  Unfortunately, shortly after he graduated from college, Bell labs announced the invention of a transistor, which made his vacuum tube engineering classes obsolete.  But Kilby still pursued his interests.  After receiving a masters degree from the University of Wisconsin, Kilby joined the Centralab Division of Globe Union, Inc.  But his real success came when he began working for Texas Instruments in May of 1958.  During a two week vacation time, which Kilby didn’t get because he was a new hire, he invented the one thing that launched society into the information age.  In the almost deserted laboratory, Kilby created the integrated circuit.  This tiny chip became the basis for much of our modern technology.   Every thing from computers to televisions to cell phones are based on this tiny chip.  The invention was so important that he was recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000.  Shortly after creating the integrated circuit, he was also able to design a hand-held calculator, one of the first of its kind.  While he is not often talked about in everyday life or very well known, Jack Kilby was the Thomas Edison of our times.  Without his invaluable inventions, the information age would not have been born.  And, who knows, maybe we would still be calculating math problems on a slide rule.  One thing is certain, Kilby’s 7/16 inch by 1/16 inch invention changed modern life.



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