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The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution [Paperback]

T.R. Reid
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 9 2001 0375758283 978-0375758287 Revised
Barely fifty years ago a computer was a gargantuan, vastly expensive thing that only a handful of scientists had ever seen. The world’s brightest engineers were stymied in their quest to make these machines small and affordable until the solution finally came from two ingenious young Americans. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce hit upon the stunning discovery that would make possible the silicon microchip, a work that would ultimately earn Kilby the Nobel Prize for physics in 2000. In this completely revised and updated edition of The Chip, T.R. Reid tells the gripping adventure story of their invention and of its growth into a global information industry. This is the story of how the digital age began.

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The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution + The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley
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From Amazon

They're everywhere, but where did they come from? Silicon chips drive just about everything that sucks power, from toys to heart monitors, but their inventors aren't nearly as widely known as Edison and Ford. Journalist T.R. Reid has thoroughly updated The Chip, his 1985 exploration of the life work of inventors Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, to reflect the colossal shift toward smarter gadgets that has taken place since then.

Satisfying as both biography and basic science text, the book perfectly captures the independence and near-obsessive problem-solving talents of the two men. Though ultimately only one of them (Noyce) ended up with legal rights to the invention, they shared a respect for each other that persisted throughout their careers. Since Kilby won the 2000 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work, the story is all the more compelling and intriguing over 40 years after the invention. Reid's work uncovers human dimensions we'd never expect to see from 1950s engineering research. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

In 1958, "before Chernobyl, before the Challenger rocket blew up, before the advent of Internet porn or cell phones that ring in the middle of the opera," when "`technological progress' still had only positive connotations," Jack Kilby had a good idea, but wasn't sure if his boss at Texas Instruments in Dallas would let him try it. In 1959, in what would become Silicon Valley, Robert Noyce had the same idea about overcoming "the numbers barrier" in electronics: "in a computer with tens of thousands of components... things were just about impossible to make," says Noyce. In his completely revised and updated edition of The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution, Washington Post reporter and columnist T.R. Reid (Confucius Lives Next Door) investigates these underappreciated heroes of the technological age and the global repercussions of their invention. The enormity of their accomplishment was fully recognized only in 2000, when Kilby won the Nobel Prize. 3-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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First Sentence
The idea occurred to Jack Kilby at the height of summer, when everyone else was on vacation and he had the lab to himself. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars how to turn an invention into a boxing match Aug. 22 2003
The writing is reasonably engaging and does its best to attract general interest to a technical subject. However the tactics with which it does so are more National Enquirer than New York Times. The author decides to choose sides in the debate over who invented the microchip, and delivers pages of invective to support his position. The industry, in contrast, recognized both Kilby and Noyce as inventors and paid royalties to both companies they worked for. In short, the author tries to retroactively arrange a boxing match between the inventors, while the co-inventors in reality cordially shook hands and agreed to split the profits. The intensely partisan presentation of the story in this book is a gross offense to the characters of the inventors.
In addition, the text is littered with errors. "A diode is a dam that blocks current under some conditions and opens it to let electricity flow when the conditions change" is a mighty vague way to say that diodes let current flow one direction and not the reverse. "Materials that have proven the best insulators are indeed those with eight outer electrons" flat out does not parse. Does the material have eight electrons? Is he trying to say that noble gases are the best insulators? "Elements with three or fewer outer electrons are conductors, and those with five or more are insulators" would come as a surprise to metals such as arsenic, antimony or selenium. "Shockley had a reputation for getting the most out of the people who worked for him". I won't even touch that one. "The process that eventually proved best - the process still used today in semiconductor manufacture - was a Bell Labs discovery called diffusion" has so many inaccuracies in one sentence it's hard to know where to start.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down - Real American Heroes. Jan. 31 2003
Technophobes might as well move on to the next review. I loved this book. It explained in clear, precise language how innumerable barriers were overcome by innovative and insightfully brilliant individuals to create a device that revolutionized our lives. I've always been fascinated by electronics, built my own radios and earned an amateur radio license in 7th grade, just because the subject and theory of how electrons move around to perform useful functions is intriguing. Reid has captured much of that fascination and translated it into a great story.
Before integrated circuits could be produced, the transistor had to be invented. Before that time, switching mechanism, required a vacuum tube to control, amplify and switch the flow of electrons through a circuit. It was the discovery that some semiconductor materials could be doped to have an excess of positive charges or negative charges that provided the breakthrough. A strip of germanium could be doped at each end with differing charges leaving a junction in the middle. The junction worked like a turnstile that could control the flow of current when connected to a battery. Variations in current across these junctions connected in the transistor formation could rectify (prevent current from flowing in both directions) and amplify. That's all that's needed to make a radio (I'm oversimplifying obviously) and hundreds of other devices. Transistors required vastly less current than vacuum tubes, were almost infinitely stable, were cheap and gave off little heat.
But, transistors required thousands of connections to the wires coming in order to make a useful circuit, and as demands for more complex circuitry arose the wiring became infinitely complex.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quick and entertaining tour Oct. 23 2002
"The Chip" attempts to pack a lot of history and a lot of ideas into a very short 260-odd pages. For the most part, it succeeds. The reader gets just enough history on boolean logic, Thomas Edison, and vacuum tubes to appreciate the astounding achievment of the first monolithic circuit without feeling overwhelmed by the technical details. But, this book is more than technological history; it also chronicles the personalities of the men who invented the machines, Kilby and (independently) Noyce. The politics of the chip are also covered, e.g., patent infringements (it took years to settle who invented the concept) and American efforts to beat back Japanese incursion into the chip market in the 1970s and 80s.
The depth of the treatments of all of these subjects is just enough to tell you what you need to know about the major events and players, though I have to admit, in many places I would have willingly accepted more detail. I have the feeling that the book could have easily been twice as long if Reid had wanted it to be and I probably wouldn't have minded at all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It takes a polymath to know a polymath Dec 14 2001
I am referring to Mr. T. R. Reid. His book, The Chip, is a tour de force that takes the reader on a journey at once historical and cerebral-, even spiritual. This absorbing account of the mircoelectronics revolution integrates (among other subjects): the biographies of Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, the counting systems of ancient Babylonians and Myans, the arcane ideas of 19th century mathematician George Boole, solid state physics, statistics, politics, patent law, and an Alice story. Reid interconnects people and ideas from varied disciplines as elegantly as the silcon chip integrates the varied components of the electronic circuit. So The Chip is both an exposition of a type of physical integration and itself a demonstration of another, a more general type of the thing it describes.
Readers from diverse backgrounds should be stimulated on one or more levels by The Chip. I sincerely hope the book could find its way on the required reading list of High Schools across the country. For this book is about America and for America, weaving together larger themes of individualism, optimism, innovation, amelioration, and, most of all, wonder. It is at once guidebook and soul food, leading, nurturing, sustaining..., lighting up the fires of the creative imagination. So follow this torchlight of a review and pass into the rich and dazzling realm of The Chip.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A dumies guide to the history of modern electronics
I found this book to be helpful and informative. It does a good job of explaining the Ideas, thoughts, history, and science behind one of today greatest enigmas the micro chip. Read more
Published on May 7 2003 by James Studer
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting book for an exciting subject
At the very outset of the review I must warn that I am a techie so my review is biased. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2002 by A. Prabhu
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent intro to microelectronics...
This book was fascinating. As much an introduction to the science behind the chip as the history, the author uses the narrative of the invention of the microchip as a way to teach... Read more
Published on March 15 2002 by Jon Roig
5.0 out of 5 stars The Chip
An interesting book, full of good explanations of the science, along with glimpses of the personalities of the scientists. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2002 by "jjohnson321"
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I was disappointed in this book,which I read after I saw the author on C-Span's Book TV. The material would have made a good magazine article. Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2002 by david corwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
It is an extremely descriptive book that has taught me alot about microelectronics and VLSI. It goes into great detail about how NMOS, PMOS, and P-N junctions are created and what... Read more
Published on Dec 20 2001
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