Computer History MuseumSemiconductor History

1962 - Aerospace systems are first the applications for ICs in computers

The size, weight, and reduced power consumption of integrated circuits compared to discrete transistor designs justify their higher cost in military and aerospace systems.

The first integrated circuits were relatively slow, replaced only a handful of components, and sold for many times the price of their discrete transistor counterparts. Aerospace and military systems were among the few applications where the low power consumption and small size outweighed these drawbacks. In 1961 Jack Kilby's colleague Harvey Cragon built a demonstration "Molecular Electronic Computer" for the US Air Force to show that 587 TI ICs could replace 8,500 transistors and other components that performed the same function in a conventional design.

Beginning in 1961, Fairchild Micrologic devices (1960 Milestone) were designed into the AC Spark Plug MAGIC and Martin MARTAC 420 computers but NASA's Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was the most significant early project. Designed by MIT in 1962 and built by Raytheon, each system used about 4,000 "Type-G" (3-input NOR gate) circuits. Consuming 200,000 units at $20-30 each, the AGC was the largest user of ICs through 1965.

Engineer Bob Cook designed Series 51 DCTL, Texas Instruments' first planar IC family, to meet a low-power specification for the Optical Aspect Computer on NASA's Interplanetary Monitoring Probe (IMP). Using the SN510 and SN514 as binary counters, flip-flops, and inhibiting circuits, the IMP satellite carried the first ICs into orbit in 1963. In 1962 TI won a contract from the Autonetics Division of North American Aviation to design 22 custom circuits for the Minuteman II missile guidance system. Clevite and Westinghouse also developed circuits for the Minuteman project, which by 1965 overtook NASA's Apollo procurement as the largest single consumer of ICs.

Ferranti Semiconductor Ltd. of England developed MicroNOR, one of Europe's first IC logic families, in 1961 to miniaturize on-board computing systems in UK Royal Navy systems.



Contemporary Documents

A Molecular Electronic Computer by TI: A Microminiature Computer designed, developed, tested by Texas Instruments for the U.S. Air Force. Promotional brochure, Texas Instruments (1961).

Faulkner, A. H., Gurzi, F., and Hughes, E. L. "MAGIC - An Advanced Computer for Spaceborne Guidance Systems," IRE, Spaceborne Computer Engineering Conference (1962)

MARTAC 420: A Multipurpose Digital Control Computer brochure published by the Martin-Marietta Company, Denver, Colorado (1962)

Bush, Edgar G. "The Use of Solid Circuits in Satellite Instrumentation," Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, NASA Technical Note D-1758 (July 1964).

Hall, Eldon C. "A Case History of the AGC Integrated Logic Circuits," Apollo Guidance and Navigation E-1880, MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (December 1965).

More Information

Kilby, Jack S. "Invention of the Integrated Circuit," IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, Vol. ED-23, No 7 (July 1976).

Hall, Eldon C. Journey to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Guidance Computer. (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., 1996).

Riordan, M. & Hoddeson, L. Crystal Fire: The Birth of the Information Age. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997) p. 272.

Spicer, Dag. "One Giant Leap: The Apollo Guidance Computer," Dr Dobb's Journal (August 12, 2001).

Zygmont, Jeffrey Microchip: An Idea, Its Genesis, and The Revolution It Created (Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2003) pp. 58-75.