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Inventor of the Integrated Circuit, Jack Kilby, Dies

Jack Kilby, the American engineer who invented the integrated circuit, has died at the age of 81 after a battle with cancer. Mr. Kilby's invention formed the basis of the computer chip -- sparking the digital revolution -- and changing the way people work and live.

Electrical engineer Jack Kilby created the integrated circuit in 1958, soon after he started work as a researcher at Dallas-based Texas Instruments.

The breakthrough shrank complex circuitry onto a tiny square of silicon. It allowed microchips to work as semi-conductors and memory chips, replacing much larger transistors and processors.

The discovery ushered in the multi-billion dollar "information age" and gave rise to products like cell phones, microwave ovens, and personal computers. Technology experts say the discovery put Mr. Kilby in the same league as inventors Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

Industry leaders, such as Zyvex chief executive Jim Von Her, agree. "There's no way the whole broad spectrum of technology would be here without the integrated circuit."

Development of the integrated circuit was spurred in the late 1950s by the U.S. space race with the Soviet Union. Mr. Kilby and his team also built the first military system and created the first computer incorporating integrated circuits.

He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his work on the integrated circuit. He was also awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Texas Instruments Senior Vice President Phil Ritter praised Mr. Kilby. "We're also very much indebted to him and to his contributions, not only to our work, but to our society, so we celebrate his life as well."

Described by friends as soft-spoken and kind, Mr. Kilby was raised in western Kansas, and studied engineering at the University of Illinois. He worked as a researcher at Texas Instruments for 25 years. He was awarded over 60 patents and was the co-inventor of the handheld calculator.