It was the summer of 1958, and Jack Kilby, a 34-year-old electrical engineer from Great Bend, Kansas, was too new at Texas Instruments to qualify for a summer vacation. Working mostly alone with borrowed and improvised equipment, Kilby tinkered on a fingernail-sized sliver of germanium—a semiconductor—to see if it would be possible to etch transistors, resistors, capacitors and other integrated components onto it. Normally these components were soldered together into a bulky unit the size of a large bread box. So if Kilby succeeded in creating an integrated circuit on a slice of semiconductor, it would revolutionize the electronics industry, allowing devices to be made smaller, faster, cheaper, more reliable and less power hungry.
He did, of course. By the end of the summer almost 47 years ago, Kilby demonstrated the first crude integrated circuit to his Texas Instruments colleagues. And, quite literally, he changed our world.
Kilby is also credited with inventing the first computer using integrated circuits, the first handheld electronic calculator, and the thermal printer. His remarkable career is a testament to the power of the individual who, given the necessary education, support and resources, can change the world.
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