Tech Trivia : Did You Know?

26th April 2023

The Birth of The IC

Around this time 62 years ago (April 25th, 1961), Robert Noyce (co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor) patented his invention – a monolithic integrated circuit (IC).

Jack Kilby patented a similar invention, but his version was difficult to mass produce due to external gold wire connections. Thus, Noyce’s version of the IC became widely adopted due to being more practical.

This was the first step in making computers more affordable as the new ICs reduced production costs significantly, increased efficiency and allowed for production of more powerful machines. To this day, modern chips are based on the ICs developed by Noyce.

The concept of combining multiple components in one electrical device was not new at the time. Interestingly, one of the first attempts to do so was a vacuum tube from the 1920s. It was designed for the purpose of tax avoidance in Germany, as radio receivers were taxed based on how many tube holders the receiver had.

Noyce would go on to co-found Intel. He was nicknamed the ‘Mayor of Silicon Valley’ as one of the first scientists to work there. And, because both Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel had great impact on the silicon industry.

Under Noyce’s leadership, yet another breakthrough took place at Intel. The creation of the microprocessor. He believed in a management style that promoted teamwork and sharing of ideas and was not afraid to take calculated risks. This paid off greatly, when in 1969, Marcian Hoff (a recent hire) approached him with concerns about a new design for Busicom’s electronic calculator.

That year, Intel was approached by Busicom to create a new design for their calculator. Hoff was concerned that the current design would make meeting price goals impossible. Instead, they should combine the chips to reduce complexity and costs. Which resulted in the Intel 4004, the first commercial microprocessor.

Intel went on to become a key player in the computer industry. Around 80% of personal computers in the world run on an Intel processor, meaning you are probably reading this article on a device with one and currently, Intel is valued at a whopping $128.72 billion.

Robert Noyce has left a gargantuan mark on the IT industry and the world.