NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2012
Thank You Mr. Kilby and Mr. Noyce!
By Bill James,
Editor / Webmaster, Computer Club of Oklahoma City
February 2012 issue, eMonitor

wijames (at) sbcglobal.net (click to email author)

We are seeing dramatic shifts as our planet becomes smarter. These shifts are changing the way the world works. Cities are becoming smarter by transforming traffic systems, water systems, security—every possible form of municipal infrastructure. Business process is evolving across every industry—banking, trading, manufacturing. And we're seeing changes in the way people live, enjoying advancements ranging from reduced congestion and pollution to new ways to communicate and collaborate. Every aspect of life is benefiting from the instrumentation, interconnection and infusion of intelligence into the systems of the world.

Nothing is changing more than information technology: the way it's accessed, the way it's applied, and the way it's architected. The opportunities for innovation have never been greater.

Enterprises in every industry can use breakthroughs in technology to create new business models, find new ways of delivering technology-based services, and generate new insights from IT to fuel innovation and dramatically improve the economics of IT. New technology innovations signal that we are entering a new era of computing—smarter computing—the era of insight for discovery.

"Who invented the computer?" is not a question with a simple answer. The real answer is that many inventors contributed to the history of computers and that a computer is a complex piece of machinery made up of many parts, each of which can be considered a separate invention.

But it is no question how computers have changed our personal lives in the last 30 years. I was in grade school during the days of the ‘Big Chief’ tablet and a No. 2 pencil. I also had a metal quill pen and ink bottle. It was not until I was in the 4th grade that I saw and used a ballpoint pen. Handheld calculators were unknown and manual typewriters were still being used well after I left college in the late 60’s.

My first exposure to the so-called PC was in 1980 when one was placed in my office. Prior to the introduction to computers into offices, they were only found in huge air conditioned rooms. They computed in batch cycles which took hours, nothing was instantaneous.

Who knew that one day computers would find their way into our homes, our cars and our pockets and that we would have any request for information instantly.

I do not believe any single object has been so pervasive into our daily lives. To many the computer is a blessing and to others it is a curse. Who knew that you could own a 40,000 book library the size of one book or you could call anyone around the world with the punch of a button. Who know that the Internet would allow access to entertainment, communicate and share information with your family and friends? We can do shopping, banking and bill payment from the comfort of our homes.

As with other appliances, computers have allowed us to evolve. Refrigeration allowed us to shop less; television gave us a window to the world and microwaves allowed us to prepare foods faster. These are just a few of devices that depend on a computer to function.

In the old days computers were big machines full of electron tubes. As technology progressed, the advent of transistors reduced the size of the machines. I also grow up in a time where radios were large boxes and not portable. The invention of transistors allowed the making of a smaller radio. As transistors were introduced into computers it allowed computers to become smaller. Often these may have been what would be referred to as hybrid devices - a mix of tubes and transistors. It was not until the invention of the Integrated circuit do we begin to see miniaturization of the devices we use today. Some circuits can fit on the head of a pin.

Today the smallest laptop computers have more computing power than computers of yesteryear. To quote the CEO of IBM Sam Palmisano - As our planet becomes instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, the computing model is evolving to support it."

So who are Jack and Robert?

Jack Kilby, an engineer with a background in ceramic-based silk screen circuit boards and transistor-based hearing aids, started working for Texas Instruments in 1958. A year earlier, research engineer Robert Noyce had co-founded the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. From 1958 to 1959, both electrical engineers were working on an answer to the same dilemma: how to make more of less. And they did succeed.

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