“The Silicon Engine” Website, Now Hosted by the Computer History Museum

This is a press release I received today. Check out the site—it’s pretty cool, and you’ll learn something. For example, I’ll bet you didn’t know that in 1926 a scientist filed a patent for a FET-like amplifying device. Unfortunately, they were never successful in building function devices…..Dan

The Computer History Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of computing-related objects and information, today announced that it has unveiled “The Silicon Engine” website. Funded by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco, California, “The Silicon Engine” presents a timeline of key semiconductor industry events behind the story of semiconductor technology and its central role in the computer revolution through 1979.

Widely regarded as one of the most important technical innovations of the 20th century, the semiconductor-based transistor and its microchip offspring, integrated circuits, microprocessors, and semiconductor memories have changed the way we live, work, and play. From cell phones to supercomputers, microchips supply the intelligence and the horsepower and yet the stories of the people, products, and companies behind them are seldom celebrated. Developed by members of the Museum’s Semiconductor Special Interest Group in cooperation with the Museum’s curatorial and technology staff, “The Silicon Engine” is the first comprehensive online presentation of the history of semiconductor technology to be developed by a major institution.

“The Silicon Engine” describes, in chronological and milestone formats, fifty-five key events that led to today’s billion transistor microchips. The timeline extends from Michael Faraday’s discovery of a semiconductor effect in 1833 to Bell Labs’ single-chip digital signal processor in 1979. Each milestone includes a description of the event together with historical images, references to original documents, and sources of additional information. A section on Teacher Materials provides lesson plans that introduce students to topics such as technological innovation, invention and problem solving and the significance of Moore’s Law (an important trend in the history of computer hardware first presented by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore in a 1965 paper: that the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit is increasing exponentially, doubling approximately every two years.)

Other resources on the site include biographies of semiconductor pioneers and their companies, a semiconductor glossary, and links to oral histories and other related websites. A second phase of the project that will provide online access to documents, oral histories, and images of artifacts in the Museum’s collection will be completed in 2008. The Computer History Museum is also seeking additional funding to support the final phase of “The Silicon Engine” project, which will complete the remaining decades of this important industry timeline. Anyone with relevant materials or resources to contribute should contact David Laws at 650-810-1057 or laws@computerhistory.org.


  1. On a related note, check http://bitsavers.org for old manuals
    and software for many minicomputers and mainframes.

    73, Jim N9GTM

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