2005 Advocate

2005 Advocate

Under Central Expressway between I-635 and Midpark exists a historical marker. It signifies the birthplace of the integrated circuit, which was invented at Texas Instruments by a 34-year-old Jack Kilby.

You know this if you read our 2007 cover story about historical landmarks in the White Rock and Lake Highlands areas.

A world without computers, mobile phones and iPods is hard to imagine, but none of these were possible until Jack Kilby came along. When the late Texas Instruments engineer invented the integrated circuit, the mechanism that allows electronic devices to work, “things changed for the world,” says Kim Quirk, the company’s public affairs director. Kilby’s first electronic circuit was half the size of a paper clip, but it paved the way for “just anything today that you can think of, even things like a curling iron, an iron, or your car has lots of integrated circuits in it,” Quirk says. As the story goes, it was summer 1958, and most TI employees were out of the office. At that time, the company took mass vacations, two weeks in July and another long stretch around Christmas. A fairly new employee, the 34-year-old Kilby hadn’t worked long enough to build up his vacation time. “So he was here basically working by himself, just fiddling around with wires and transistors and glue,” Quirk says. Only one transistor was part of Kilby’s initial model, but because of his invention, today a single microchip can contain billions of transistors. The company honored him by opening the Kilby Center in 1997, and in 2000, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics. “He kept an office in the Kilby building just about until the time of his death in 2005. He was an inspiration to the young engineers,” Quirk says. “We called him the gentle giant. He was very tall, six-feet, six-inches, very unassuming, and a very kind and brilliant man. He’s pretty much a legend around here.”

Kirby died in June 2005 and is buried at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park.