Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_numbers
Jack Kilby died, and with him a great legacy. He “invented” the integrated circuit (actually he gets credit along with Robert Noyce). Read on for more about Jack Kilby contribution and what computing would look like without him…
I fully expect someone to tell me that a Pentium 4 implemented using ENIAC technology would be much, much larger.
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Noyce and Kilby: this isn’t about who got there first, eventually someone would have reached a similar conclusion maybe with slightly different results. Kilby and Noyce changed everything by thinking about something so totally odd as creating a circuit by focusing beams of light on photoresist sitting on a single crystal of doped Germanium, washing off the exposed portions, and selectively plating or doping the remainder. Do this in just the right way, and you’ve created a bunch of transistors which eventually add up to integrated circuits….fast forward to today, a Pentium 4. Figuratively speaking, if we were all economists, these guys invented currency.
“Without this invention, space travel in the 1960s would not have been possible” -http://www.crews.org/curriculum/ex/compsci/articles/generations.htm
Did I mention he’s also credited with inventing the portable calculator?
The problem they solved was known as the “tyranny of numbers”, and anyone who has done any work with hardware design, has soldered a complex circuit, or knows what a wire wrap tool is knows that “tyranny” is great word choice. Ever try to keep track of and wire a 64 pin IC to another 64 pin IC? Well, you can probably guess, it’s a lot of counting, some delicate wiring, and patience. Hopefully you have something to make a Printed Circuit Board, but sometimes, you just have to break out the color coded wires and get to it. The “tyranny of numbers” isn’t taught it is experienced. And, without the Integrated Circuit, the “tyranny of wires” would have made modern computers an economic impossibility.
Think of an early processor from 1972 the 8008 - the 8008 had approximately 3500 transistors - 1972 was about 10 years after the introduction of the integrated circuit, and, no doubt, processors like the 8008 would have been absolutely impossible without the integrated circuit. So what were computers like before Noyce and Kilby came along:
“Unlike modern computers, which use microprocessors composed of thousands or millions of transistors, ENIAC used vacuum tubes to process data. It had about 18,000 tubes, each the size of a small light bulb. The computer was composed of 30 separate units with additional power supplies and cooling units. It weighed more than 30 tons, occupied 1800 sq ft and consumed 175 kw of power.” - (my emphasis added) http://encarta.msn.com/text_761587960__1/ENIAC.html
Yikes! So, to summarize, the ENIAC in the 1950s - 18,000 tubes, probably around 1/8 the power of the 8008 - 30 tons, about twice the size of my one bedroom apartment. 8008 was as big as my fist with a clock speed 200 kHz. Ballpark extrapolation is dangerous but fun, let’s just think about the 8008 without the integrated circuit: the 8008 would have been the size of an apartment building and would have required a little less than half a megawatt (I’m being optimistic). In other words, the 8008 wouldn’t have happened, and if it weren’t for Kilby and Noyce, we’d still be using the abacus. We wouldn’t even be thinking about having a Pentium 4, which with 55 million transistors has about 15,000 times the number of transistors than the 8008. Again, it’s foolish to just extrapolate because no one would’ve ever connected 55 million tubes, but if the 8008 would’ve required an apartment building and a small coal generator, the vacuum tube Pentium 4 (a theoretical impossibility) would’ve been at least the size Manhattan and would’ve required a power station the size of Rhode Island. Again, not really, no one would’ve been stupid enough to spend the time or the capital to build such a “tyranny of numbers”, and, if they had, it would have had a mean time between failure of 2 seconds.
So thanks Jack (and Robert). You helped change the world, and the rest of us are just posers. Let’s hope there are a few people alive now who can help us make similar advances in fuel efficiency or materials science.