Press Release

"The Silicon Engine" Website, Now Hosted by the Computer History Museum, Tells the Story of One of the Most Important Technical Innovations of the 20th Century

Mountain View, California  |  January 28, 2008

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

About the Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a 25-year history as part of the former Boston Computer Museum. CHM preserves and presents the artifacts and stories of the information age and is dedicated to exploring the social impact of computing. CHM's diverse collection of computing-related artifacts is the largest and most significant in the world. CHM brings computing history to life through an acclaimed speaker series, dynamic website, and onsite tours and exhibits. Current exhibits include "Mastering the Game: A History of Computer Chess," "Innovation in the Valley," and "Visible Storage," featuring 600 key objects from the collection. A signature "Timeline of Computing History" exhibit will open in the fall of 2009. For more information, please visit or call 650.810.1010.

About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and cutting-edge scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information, visit

Press Contacts:

Greg Nelson
(415) 561-7427

PR Team
(650) 810-1059


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