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BBC: The microchip invented by UK scientist in 1952

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  • Stig Agermose
    Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/sci/tech/newsid_403000/403690.stm Stig *** BBC News Online: Sci/Tech Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 06:28 GMT
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27 9:23 AM
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      Source:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/sci/tech/newsid_403000/403690.stm

      Stig

      ***

      BBC News Online: Sci/Tech

      Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK

      UK missed out on microchip

      **

      The microchip was invented by a UK Ministry of Defence scientist, only for
      the patent to be registered seven years later in the US, the BBC has learned.

      Now the UK Government is planning to set up a special agency to ensure such
      money-spinning commercial ideas are not lost in the future.

      Nowadays, the global microchip industry is worth billions of pounds but it
      all began in the 1950s as a spin-off from World War II.

      Geoffrey Dummer and his small team of researchers, based at Malvern,
      Worcestershire, were given the task of improving the reliability of the
      Royal Air Force's radar equipment.


      Silicon pioneer


      Mr Dummer, now aged 90, has told BBC reporter David Gregory that in 1952 he
      came up with the idea of putting an entire circuit on a block of silicon
      half an inch square.

      It was rudimentary but it was recognisable as an early microchip.

      But Mr Dummer said MoD mandarins were unimpressed after a prototype failed
      and the idea went no further.

      Seven years later a United States scientist, Jack St Claire Kilby of Texas
      Instruments, filed a patent for an almost identical device.

      And the rest is history.

      Now the UK Government is drawing up plans for a new agency that would
      develop and market ideas which are thrown up by the MoD's defence research
      wing Dera.


      'Civilian applications'


      Dera (Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) has an annual turnover of
      �1bn and Under-Secretary of State for Defence, John Spellar, says: "We
      spend money on military research but very often some of the discoveries
      that we make are very applicable in the civilian market.

      "What we've got to do is, rather than that being exploited by the
      electronics industry of Japan, we want to see that being developed in the
      UK."

      Mr Dummer, who was awarded the MBE, says the new agency is 50 years too late.

      "All these main ideas came out during the war years and had they been
      commercialised in the UK we would have been in a very happy state."


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      Internet Links:

      *Defence Evaluation and Research Agency
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