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50th Anniversary of the Integrated-Circuit Patent

Fri, February 06
Process

It wasn’t the sexiest of races, but, wow, was it important. In the 1950s, the rush to make the first functional integrated circuit was on. The unfortunately named Geoffrey W.A. Dummer, who thought up the idea, couldn’t figure out how to make one, so others — smarter, perhaps — stepped up. The ones who stepped fastest were Texas Instruments’ Jack Kilby and Fairchild Semiconductor’s Robert Noyce. But only one could get the first patent. In 1959, Kilby and TI won it, but Noyce’s silicon circuit ended up being the prototype on which the microprocessors we now use are based. Not that you should feel too badly for Kilby. He became a pretty wealthy man. And in 2000, he got a consolation prize honoring his achievement: a Nobel Prize in physics. — Sean Ludwig

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