- the history of the development of the integrated circuit - how it was developed, the main names of Noyce, Kilby, Project Tinkertoy, etc.
The history of the integrated circuit is one of the most important stories within the electronics arena.
The history of the integrated circuit shows that the IC developed as a result of the need for very small electronic assemblies.
The transistor had shown the way, now history shows that the direction had been set: engineers and scientists saw the possibilities of much greater levels of miniaturisation.
IC history beginnings
With the transistor well established, people soon started to wonder if several components could be placed on the same piece of semiconductor. If this could be accomplished then considerable improvements in performance and reliability would be obtained in addition to reductions in size.
One of the main driving forces in the history of the integrated circuit, IC came out of the need for improved military equipment. The Second World War had conclusively proved the value of electronics beyond all doubt. Radar had been an outstanding success, and many other new uses had been found for electronic equipment.
One of these was an early computer called Colossus which was developed by the British to help decipher German encrypted messages. It contained over 1500 valves and generated a phenomenal amount of heat. It was the most complicated piece of electronic equipment at the time and it proved to be very successful although somewhat unreliable.
As electronic equipment became more sophisticated and complicated a number of problems arose. Firstly the physical size grew. This was a particular disadvantage for aircraft where size and weight were very important. As a result it limited the complexity of equipment which could be carried in aircraft. The second disadvantage was even more important. As the complexity of the circuitry grew, so the reliability fell. It often fell to a point where it was being maintained for longer than it was in use. This was particularly true of some of the early valve based computers.
Some of these problems were solved to a degree by the use of new construction techniques. Smaller valves enabled the size of equipment to be reduced a little, as did the introduction of printed circuit boards. However the main advantage brought about by the introduction of printed circuit boards was an increase in reliability.
Despite these improvements the basic problems were not solved. Reliability was still too low, and the equipment too large. Then in 1948 the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear bomb. The U.S.A. saw this as a great threat. It meant that the Soviet Union could easily launch an atomic attack on the U.S.A.. With existing technology the U.S.A. would not be able to detect this until it was too late. Better methods of detecting possible threats were needed, and this required more complicated electronics.
Tinkertoy & IC history
The integrated circuit history shows that one of the first major attempts to solve the problems of size and reliability was started in 1951 when the U.S. Government funded a study. Code named Tinkertoy, it investigated a number of possibilities, many of which are in standard use today.
Within Tinkertoy, double sided and even multi-layer boards were developed, as well as the techniques for making plated through holes on a board. Whilst the transistor may have seemed an obvious candidate for inclusion in the project, it was not used because the technology was very new and unreliable at the time.
Other developments and ideas that were key within the integrated circuit history were beginning to surface. Across the Atlantic in England, Dr G Drummer from the Royal Radar Establishment proposed the idea of building a circuit as a solid block without any interconnecting wires. However this was more of a vision of the future because there were no practical ideas to support it. Nevertheless it was a remarkably accurate prediction of what the future might hold.
A year later in May 1953 the first patent for an integrated circuit was filed by H Johnson working for the radio Corporation of America (RCA). He proposed that all the components for a phase shift oscillator could be contained on a single chip of silicon. He detailed how the individual components could be made, but as the first p-n junction transistors had only just been made the technology did not exist to be able to manufacture it.
IC history moves on a-pace
Meanwhile back in the U.K., Drummer kept working on his idea. In 1957 he placed an order with the research wing of Plessey to investigate methods which could be used to manufacture an IC. This was a key development within the integrated circuit history.
It took some time for work on the project to start properly. In fact it was not until 1959 that work was really under way. By this time it was too late because wok was progressing far more swiftly in the U.S.A..
The key elements were now in place within integrated circuit history for the IC itself to come to fruition.