Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 25, 2013
Robert Noyce

Robert Noyce

April 25, 1961: Robert Noyce receives patent #2,981,877 for a Semiconductor device-and-lead Structure. Noyce and Jack Kilby were independently working on solving the big problem facing electrical engineers of the 1950s called the “Tyranny of Numbers.” This problem described the ever mounting number of components needed to improve circuits and the physical limitation inherent in the number of components that could be hooked together. Kilby, working for Texas Instruments, filed a patent in February 1959 while Noyce and Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation filed one in July 1959.

Unlike some other inventions, particularly the telephone, the two men are given joint credit for bringing all of us into the computer age. They brought us from the vacuum tube to the miniature electronic circuits that form the core of our electronic gadgetry. Integrated circuits run everything from computers to cell phones to digital appliances. Manufacturing and transportation also depend on the tiny chips.

Noyce is nicknamed “the Mayor of Silicon Valley.” While Kilby’s chip was patented six months earlier, it was not widely shared. Noyce improved it and made his “unitary circuit” of Silicon. Noyce left Fairchild and co-founded a new company with Gordon E Moore, a chemist and physicist. They opened their new company in California in 1968. They wanted to name it “Moore Noyce” but that sounded too much like “more noise” and noise is a very bad thing in electronics. Instead, they called their new company INTegrated ELectronics or Intel.

Intel made the first microprocessor in 1971 and one of the first microcomputers in 1972. They went on to create dynamic random access memory chips (RAM). By the late 1980s, they shifted direction from RAM manufacture to microprocessors – the heart of computers. By the end of the millennium, Intel was one of the most profitable hardware suppliers in the PC industry. By 2006, after failed attempts to diversify, 10% of the workforce or 10,500 employees were laid off during a restructuring.

“What we didn’t realize then was that the integrated circuit would reduce the cost of electronic functions by a factor of a million to one, nothing had ever done that for anything before” – Jack Kilby

“Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons.” – Popular Mechanics, March 1949

“The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That’s where we come in; we’re computer professionals. We cause accidents.” – Nathaniel Borenstein

“Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.” – Rick Cook

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Intel Corporation was founded on July 18, 1968 and headquarters are located in Santa Clara, California. It is the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker (based on revenue). Samsung is second and Texas Instruments is third with Toshiba following. (Figures are from 2011). Today, Andy Bryant is the Chairman of Intel and Paul Otellini is the President and CEO. Their revenue in 2012 was $53.34 billion dollars with a net income of $11 billion. They have nearly 105,000 employees. Robert Noyce died in 1990 at the age of 62 and his partner Gordon Moore (creator of Moore’s Law) is still alive at age 84 and living in San Francisco, California. He remains Chairman Emeritus of Intel and has a net worth of $4 billion.

Also on this day: “Off With Their Heads” – The Queen of Hearts – In 1792 the first person is executed by the more humane method of guillotine.
Ouch! –  In 1684, a patent was granted for a thimble.
Rebellion Losses Bill – In 1849, the bill was signed into law.