preview

The Evolution of the Microprocessor

Powerful Essays
The Integrated Circuit:
The Evolution of an Electronic Miracle

The microprocessor evolved over the course of many years of research, and people all over the world enjoy the benefits of this electronic miracle. It is difficult to think of anything that has affected modern life more than this invention. Cellular phones, wristwatches, calculators, automobiles, stereos, televisions, and computers are just a few of the thousands of electronic devices that have a microchip at the heart of its operation. Over the years, three major breakthroughs occurred to accelerate the birth of the microprocessor: the vacuum tube, the transistor, and the integrated circuit.
The Vacuum Tube
American physicist Lee De Forest invented the vacuum tube in 1906. However, one must look back to 1879 when Thomas Edison first revealed the incandescent electric light bulb to understand how De Forest developed his idea. Edison’s invention consisted of a conducting filament mounted in a glass bulb. Electricity passing through the filament caused it to heat up and created a vacuum that prevented the filament from oxidizing and burning up. In 1883, Edison detected electrons flowing through the vacuum from the lighted filament to a metal plate mounted inside the bulb. This became known as the Edison Effect, but he did not develop this particular discovery any further. However, British physicist John Fleming found that the Edison Effect also detected radio waves and converted them to electricity. In 1904, Fleming first showed off his two-element vacuum tube known as the Fleming diode that converted an alternating current (AC) signal into direct current (DC) (Kuphaldt).
The Fleming diode consisted of an incandescent light bulb with an extra electrode inside. Electrons boiled off the surface of the metal plate and into the vacuum inside the bulb as the filament became white-hot. When the extra electrode became more positive than the filament, a direct current flowed through the vacuum proving that AC signals could be converted into DC. One of the first uses of the Fleming diode was to detect weak signals produced by the new wireless telegraph. Later, the diode vacuum tube was used to convert AC into DC for power supplies in electronic equipment (Kuphaldt).
Many inventors tried to improve the Fleming diode, but the only one who succeeded was American inventor Lee De Forest. In 1906, De Forest int...

... middle of paper ...

...light bulb.

References
Bellis, M. The History of Computers. Retrieved Mar. 03, 2005, from About.com web site: http://www.inventors.about.com/library/blcoindex.htm.

Hoff, T. Fascinating Facts about the Invention of the Microprocessor. Retreived Feb 28, 2005, from Idea Finder web site: http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/microprocessor.htm

IC Knowledge. History of the Integrated Circuit. Retrieved February 28, 2005, from IC Knowledge web site: http://www.icknowledge.com/history/history.html.

Kuphaldt, T. R. Early Tube History. Retrieved Feb. 24, 2005, from All About Circuits Web site: http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_3/chpt_13/2.html.

Lindberg, A. A. The History of the Integrated Circuit. Retrieved Mar. 03, 2005, from Nobelprize.org Web site: http://nobelprize.org/physics/educational/integrated_circuit/history

Maxfield, C. and Brown, A. Retrieved Feb. 24, 2005, from The History of Computers Web site: http://www.maxmon.com.

Riordan, M. and Hoddeson, L. (1997). Crystal Fire-The Birth of the Information Age.
New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Sullivan, J. (Ed.). (1988). The Chipmakers. Alexandrea, VA: Time-Life Books. (Understanding Computers Series)
Get Access