The First Microchip Went Up for Auction and No One Bought It

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In 1958, Texas Instruments engineer Jack Kilby created the first integrated circuit, an invention that would go on to define modern technology. It became the ancestor of today's microchips, which power almost all modern electronic devices. Kilby won the Nobel Prize in Physics for this microchip in 2000. 

This week, the original prototype of Kilby's chip went to auction at Christie's. This prototype was designed by Kilby and built with Tom Yeargan, who worked on Kilby's team. The label on it was signed by Kilby himself.

The chip was put up for auction by Yeargan's family, and was sold along with this 1964 letter from Yeargan (via Gizmag):

Christie's called the chip "virtually the birth certificate of the modern computing era," estimating it would bring between one and two million dollars. The highest bid was $850,000, but even this hefty sum failed to meet the reserve price, which was undisclosed, though likely over $1 million. 

There are two other prototypes of this chip, one is in the Smithsonian and the other in the Chicago Museum of Technology.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.