Sunday, May 7, 2017

"The British IT Prophet" -- A Full Six Years BEFORE American Jack Kilby -- And Texas Instruments...

It was exactly 65 years ago this morning, in a Washington, DC area hotel conference room, that Geoffrey Dummer read and presented an engineering paper that concluded thus:

". . . .With the advent of the transistor and the work on semi-conductors generally, it now seems possible to envisage electronic equipment in a solid block with no connecting wires. . . . The block may consist of layers of insulating, conducting, rectifying and amplifying materials, the electronic functions being connected directly by cutting out areas of the various layers. . . ."

Those few sentences are absolutely the heart of what became the entire electronics age, and the subsequent internet-connected computing world.

The mild-mannered British gent at right is the "prophet" -- the one who leads directly to pictures and movies of graceful twisting elliptical orbits around Saturn (and Jupiter) -- landings, and drives on Mars, fly-bys of Pluto. . . and all the other space science we often crow about, here. [The former plainly including the "Hidden Figures" assisted Mercury Redstone program -- and the Atlas assisted Armstrong moonwalk.] To say nothing of all those new drugs and devices we've discussed here.

Of course, it would be another six years before the American Jack Kilby prototyped, and filed a patent application (for the company that became Texas Instruments) in what was first claimed as this invention, with the USPTO.

I write on this fine Sunday morning not to stir any dispute. No, I write to remind each of us, that many of the people we love most, might be entirely unknown to us, but for his sublime invention.

I also write to be sure that Mr. Dummer gets his due, here in the colonies -- for being first to describe in writing what may have been the greatest single invention of the last century.

Now you know -- off for a chilly, but crystal clear morning bike ride, then a workout and a hot but late breakfast. . . smile.


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