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Comment: This item is in good condition. All pages and covers are readable. There are no stains or tears. Dust jacket is present if applicable. May contain small amounts of writing and/or highlighting. Spine and cover may show signs of wear. May not contain supplementary items. We ship within 1 business day. Big Hearted Books shares its profits with schools, churches and non-profit groups throughout New England. Thank you for your support!
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The Chip : How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution Paperback – October 9, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Revised edition (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375758283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758287
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
TR Reid, who studied ancient Greek and Latin at Princeton, has written an excellent short history of integrated circuits, or microchips, which is accessible to any high school student. The basic concepts and main figures, such as Kilby and Haggerty at Texas Instruments, Noyce at Intel, and others are described extremely well in language that is easily understandable, interesting, and enjoyable to read. On top of that, it is good pointers to other, more detailed books at the end.

If you have a PhD in electrical engineering, or are a veteran of the industry, you may, on the other hand, feel that this book is too short for your liking.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Chip is a smallish (300 pages) book about the history of the microchip which has lead to miniaturization of circuits that lead to the revolution of the personal computer. The book is easy to read (at times, perhaps too easy as it is lacking some technical details) and insightful. I've enjoyed reading the chip a lot.

The book consists of 11 different chapters, each covering an area in the history of the microchip. The first chapter starts with the invention of "the monolith idea" which is the concept that we integrate all the components on one circuit instead of wiring up different smaller and smaller components. Both Bob Noyce and Jack Kilby had this idea at around the same time and both of them are recognized as the inventor of the chip. The second chapter quickly introduces the history of electronics and the invention of the transistor... all the things that happened before before the monolith idea, the basis for the idea. Chapter 3 is the history of Jack Kilby and chapter 4 is the history of Bob Noyce (nicely done). Chapter five discusses the patent case about whether Noyce or Kilby is the first inventor and how this never really got resolved. Chapter 6 introduces computers and explains how the chip was perfect for making digital computers. Chapter 7 shows how the space race actually provided the demand for the microchips, as there wasn't enough industrial interest yet due to the price. Chapter 8 tells about how (again) Jack Kilby assisted with the invention of the handheld calculator that was the first introduction of the chip to the larger public. Chapter 9 is a bit an odd chapter, it explains how a calculator works.
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