Even seven years after introducing the world to the integrated
circuit, Jack Kilby shrugged off his invention, predicting,
“It won’t be that big a deal in the long term.” Fifty years
later, we know better. It continues to touch our lives
daily, often subtly and usually profoundly. The integrated
DNA makes the Internet, PCs, cell phones and, well, the
world, go round.
Today, the integrated circuit is so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine an earlier time. Engineers worldwide are creating innovative applications to help tackle many of the world’s most pressing challenges. For example, portable health care equipment, previously unaffordable in many underdeveloped countries, is now available even in remote regions with aging populations. More energy-efficient consumer products with low-power consumption and recycled components are feeding the global “green movement.” And vehicles with integrated brake, video and airbag safety systems are becoming safer.
The integrated circuit has made possible children’s cherished
toys, handheld and wireless video games, and such handy
educational resources as the Internet, portable electronics
and graphing calculators.
The list goes on. And the pace of development in the world of semiconductors shows no signs of slowing.
Today, the worldwide demand for integrated circuits represents
a $250 billion-a-year industry. It continues to feed technological
revolutions in every field, from aerospace to zoology to
public safety, from finance to medicine
Take cell phones, for example. About 15 years ago, some of
the best minds in the world predicted that handheld devices
would become wildly successful if 200 units were in use.
Today, that number is about
3.5 billion, or roughly 60 percent of the world’s population.
What was once a little bigger than a brick now fits snugly
in the palms of our hands.
In medicine, new applications of the integrated circuit are helping turn large imaging devices into handheld products. Other advances are promising that cardiac defibrillators planted inside a human body could be powered indefinitely by ambient energy, or the body’s own heat.
Thanks to Jack, the impact to our lives – and possibilities – are endless.
Or are they?
Each generation seems to worry that all the “cool stuff”
has already been invented. Yet history shows us that the
best is yet to come. Look at the last 50 years, for example,
to see how far successive
generations of engineers have advanced Jack’s original circuitry.
Today, electrical engineering students, many involved in TI-sponsored research and grant programs, are adding their own creative flourishes to innovations that promise to improve the world we live in and open previously unimaginable markets.
Speaking to more than 8,000 young engineers at the 34th annual National Society of Black Engineers convention in March, TI CEO and President Rich Templeton hit the nail on the head.
“Technology offers us the chance to take on critical problems in the healthcare, power efficiency and public safety sectors that touch billions of people and impact every corner of the world,” he said. “These challenges are in need of solutions, and the need is immediate.
“Solutions aren’t going to come out of board rooms, summits or political debates. They’re going to come from people like you, creative engineers who want to make a difference.”
Just as Jack did 50 years ago.