On this day, in 1952, Geoffrey Dummer, who was a radar scientist working for Britain’s Ministry of Defence, got the idea of making the various parts out of a single piece of silicon, which would eliminate the distance between components, speed up the signal, and do away with the need for precise soldering. It would also be smaller, enabling it to be fit into much smaller devices. He presented his paper at the U.S. Electronic Components Symposium; the Americans were willing to take a gamble on the idea, but the British government wasn’t, and it was years before the United Kingdom had a semiconductor industry.
Today we rely on integrated circuits to run our computers, our phones, our watches, and our calculators. They’re also used in microwaves, TVs, stereos, cars, refrigerators, and kids’ toys. Pretty much anything you plug in is going to have at least one microchip in it.