1958: All Semiconductor "Solid Circuit" is Demonstrated

Jack Kilby produces a microcircuit with both active and passive components fabricated from semiconductor material.

As computer systems grew more complex, engineers sought simpler ways to interconnect the thousands of transistors they employed. Government agencies funded micro-module and multi-chip hybrid circuit projects in search of a solution to this problem. In 1952, G. W. A. Dummer of England's Telecommunications Research Establishment proposed "With the advent of the transistor and the work in semiconductors generally, it seems now possible to envisage electronic equipment in a solid block with no connecting wires."

From the mid to late 1950s several projects succeeded in integrating multiple components on a chip. At RCA Harwick Johnson patented an oscillator and Torkel Wallmark and Sanford Marcus built shift registers and logic gates. Arthur D'Asaro and Ian Ross of Bell Labs fabricated a four-stage counter for telephone applications. Joe Logue and Rick Dill of IBM built a counter using a double-base diode structure. Yasuro Tarui of Japan's MITI and Richard Stewart of TI filed multiple device patents. Dudley Buck of MIT developed the cryotron, an integrated superconducting element. While achieving various degrees of functionality, none of these ideas yielded a solution to the challenge of general-purpose system integration.

On September 12, 1958, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments built a circuit using germanium mesa p-n-p transistor slices he had etched to form transistor, capacitor, and resistor elements. Using fine gold "flying-wires" he connected the separate elements into an oscillator circuit. One week later he demonstrated an amplifier. T.I. announced Kilby's "solid circuit" concept in March 1959 and introduced its first commercial device in March 1960, the Type 502 Binary Flip-Flop priced at $450 each. However the flying-wire interconnections were not a practical production technique and only a few dozen units were shipped to customers for evaluation purposes until the Series 51 DCTL "fully-integrated circuit" devices using deposited-metal planar technology were available (1959 Milestone) .

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