Building the digital age

May, 1833
Michael Faraday publishes work on semiconductors
While conducting experiments on the effect of temperature on the electrical conductivity of silver sulphide English scientist Michael Faraday found that the material’s conductivity increased with temperature. This effect is typical of semiconductors the material of choice for the chip industry. Faraday records his observations in his book Experimental Researches in Electricity.
8 October, 1926
Julius Lilienfield patents a device that will become known as the transistor.
PolishAmerican physicist Julius Lilienfeld filed a patent in 1926 followed by two others in 1928 for a threeelectrode device made from coppersulphide. The device would today be a fieldeffect transistor the building block of silicon chips.
December, 1943
Colossus computer unveiled.
The Colossus computer was built by British codebreakers to help decipher messages between the German highcommand. It crucially found the keys to break the Lorenz code used by Hitler to encrypt messages to his generals. The machine used the precursor of transistors vacuum tubes. It was the precursor of other machines such as the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer ENIAC unveiled at the University of Pennsylvania in 1947.
23 December, 1947
Transistor invented
After 18 months of work John Bardeen and Walter Brattain working under William Shockley show off the first transistor to bosses at Bell Labs New Jersey. The device a point contact transistor was made of germanium and kickstarted the “transistor revolution”.
June, 1948
European scientists independently invent the transistor
Herbert Matare and Heinrich Welker independently create a germanium pointcontact transistor whilst working at the Compagnie des Freins et Signaux in France. In July the German scientists learnt that Bell Labs had beaten them to the invention six months earlier.
1 July, 1948
Bell Labs publicly announce its invention.
The transistor is publicly announced at a press conference in New York It is named by electrical engineer John Pierce.
1952
Transistors used in the US telephone network.
December, 1952
First transistorbased commercial product hits the market
Towards the end of 1952 the first consumer products to use transistors went on sale. The first was a hearing aid from Sonotone rapidly followed by handheld transistor radios. 1953 was dubbed “the year of the transistor”.
March, 1953
Fortune magazine declare it the year of the transistor
16 November, 1953
First transistor based computer built.
Richard Grimsdale and Douglas Webb working with Tom Kilburn at the University of Manchester demonstrated a prototype computer built with transistors. The experimental machine went on to become the Metrovick 950 the first commercial transistorised computer built from 1959 onwards by MetropolitanVickers. Seven machines were built.
January, 1954
First silicon transistor built.
Bell Labs chemist Morris Tanenbaum builds the first silicon transistors the basis of today’s chips. But the firm do not go into commercial production allowing rival Texas Instruments to build the first commercial devices later in the year.
1954
Modern mass manufacturing techniques introduced.
Bell Labs develops the “oxide masking” technique for the fabrication of transistors. This technique for building circuits layeruponlayer has been refined but is still used to make today’s chips.
1955
Foundations of Silicon Valley laid.
William Shockley leaves Bell Labs and sets up Shockley Semiconductors at 391 San Antonio Road in Mountain View California. Among his first recruits are Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce who went on to found Intel. The company starts developing silicon devices.
1 October, 1956
Nobel Prizes recognise transistor research
William Shockley John Bardeen and Walter Brattain are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect”.
1957
Silicon industry takes off.
The socalled “Traitorous eight” leave Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to set up Fairchild Semiconductors. It becomes the first company to work exclusively with silicon. In the same year the semiconductor industry is worth more than 100 million for the first time.
12 September, 1958
First integrated circuit shown.
Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments demonstrates the first integrated circuit the basis of modern chips. Integrated circuits are tiny circuits manufactured directly onto a semiconductor surface. Texas Instruments announce the device at a press conference in March 1959.
March, 1959
Chip production process invented.
Fairchild Semiconductor’s Jean Hoerni develops the “planar process” for fabricating silicon chips. Later in the year his collegaue Robert Noyce commercialises the process of making integrated circuits allowing silicon chips to be manufactured in high volumes for the first time.
1964
Semiconductor industry is worth 1 billion.
19 April, 1965
Moores Law published
Intel founder Gordon Moore’s paper “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits” is published in Electronics Magazine. In the article he predicts that the number of transistors on a chip will double every year for the next ten years. he revises his prediction in 1975 to doubling every twenty four months. The prediction has become a selffulfilling prophecy and still drives the industry today.
3 October, 1968
First personal computer is announced
HewlettPackard introduces the term “Personal Computer” in an advert for the 911A calcualtor in Science magazine.
15 November, 1971
First microprocessor goes on sale.
Intel launch the 4004 the first commercial microprocessor. It contained 2300 transistors and had roughly the same power as the ENIAC computer. The machine had a speed of 108kHz 2000 times slower than today’s chips. It was designed for the Busicom calculator.
January, 1975
Altair 8800 computer launched
Although not the first personal computer the Altair 8800 was an unexpected success selling several thousand in the first year. The PC was the first machine to run Microsoft software Altair BASIC. It was sold as a kit through Popular Electronics magazine.
1975
Moores Law revised
After 10 years of rapid progress in the chip industry Gordon Moore revises his “law”. The new prediction states that the number of transistors on a chip will double every 24 months rather than every 12.
April, 1976
Apple1 computer launched
The Apple1 was a personal computer designed by Steve Wozniak. it was first shown off at the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto. Wozniak’s friend Steve Jobs had the idea of selling the computer and it went on sale in July 1976 at a price of 666.66. About 200 units were produced. To make a working computer users had to add a case power supply keyboard and display.
12 October, 1981
IBM launch its business PC
IBM introduces the 5150 its first desktop PCs. It wasn’t the firm’s first attempt to introduce a PC but it was its most successful. The machine had just 16K or memory and used an audio cassette to load and save data. Many people believe the machine kickstarted the personal computer revolution.
10 April, 1989
First microprocessor with a million transistors.
Intel introduces the 486 microprocessor. The device contains 1200000 transistors and runs at a speed of 50MHz 40 times slower than today’s chips.
22 March, 1993
Intel unveil its first Pentium processor
7 March, 2000
First GigaHertz processor released.
Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices AMD launch the Athlon chip the first commercial processor to run at speeds of 1GHz or 1 billion calculations per second.
October, 2000
Nobel Prizes recognise chip technology
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to Jack Kilby “for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit” 42 years after the technology was invented.
2000
Semiconductor industry worth 200 billion
2001
IBM introduce the first multicore chip.
The first chip to use multiple cores is released. The IBM POWER4 is for use in highend servers. Each core is effectively a programmable chip in its own right.
7 February, 2005
The Cell processor is launched.
The powerful chip that drives the PlayStation 3 is launched in San Francisco. The Cell consists of eight cores and runs 10times faster than other PC chips on the market. It is the result of research by Sony IBM and Toshiba.