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April 25, 2017 AT 6:00 am

Time Travel Tuesday #timetravel a look back at the Adafruit, maker, science, technology and engineering world

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1874 – Guglielmo Marconi, Italian businessman and inventor, developed Marconi’s law, Nobel Prize laureate is born.

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Guglielmo Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi was an Italian inventor and electrical engineer known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi’s law and a radio telegraph system. He is often credited as the inventor of radio, and he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”.

Marconi was an entrepreneur, businessman, and founder of The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in the United Kingdom in 1897 (which became the Marconi Company). He succeeded in making a commercial success of radio by innovating and building on the work of previous experimenters and physicists. In 1929, the King of Italy ennobled Marconi as a Marchese (marquis).

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1953 – Francis Crick and James Watson publish “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” describing the double helix structure of DNA.

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“Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” was the first article published to describe the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, using X-ray diffraction and the mathematics of a helix transform. It was published by Francis Crick and James D. Watson in the scientific journal Nature on pages 737–738 of its 171st volume (dated 25 April 1953).

This article is often termed a “pearl” of science because it is brief and contains the answer to a fundamental mystery about living organisms. This mystery was the question of how it is possible that genetic instructions are held inside organisms and how they are passed from generation to generation. The article presents a simple and elegant solution, which surprised many biologists at the time who believed that DNA transmission was going to be more difficult to deduce and understand. The discovery had a major impact on biology, particularly in the field of genetics, enabling later researchers to understand the genetic code.

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1954 – The first practical solar cell is publicly demonstrated by Bell Telephone Laboratories.

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Working with Bell Telephone scientists Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson, Fuller diffused boron into silicon to capture the sun’s power. In doing so, they created the first practical means of collecting energy from the sun and turning it into a current of electricity. The invention of the solar battery resulted in a 600% improvement in the ability to harness the sun’s power into electricity. First, Fuller ensured that silicon was uncorrupted and pure. Then Fuller accomplished the diffusion of boron into silicon. The inventors used several small strips of silicon to capture sunlight and render it into free electrons. Bell Laboratories, who had funded the research, announced the prototype manufacture of a new solar battery.

Robert W. Fuller, Calvin S. Fuller’s oldest son, tells the following story: “In 1954 I was home from vacation from college to visit my parents. That night my father, Calvin Souther Fuller, came home with something that looked like a quarter with wires sticking out of it. This was a device that connected to a small electric windmill that stood on the table. He shined a bright flashlight on the quarter-like object, which was actually silicon solar cell, and the blades of the windmill started turning. It was so exciting to see the flashlight power the tiny windmill. While this device looked like a quarter to anyone else, it was actually the world’s first silicon solar battery – a device that later become known as the silicon solar cell.”

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1961 – Robert Noyce is granted a patent for an integrated circuit.

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An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or “chip”) of semiconductor material, normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip resulted in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, cheaper, and faster than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC’s mass production capability, reliability and building-block approach to circuit design ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.

ICs were made possible by experimental discoveries showing that semiconductor devices could perform the functions of vacuum tubes, and by mid-20th-century technology advancements in semiconductor device fabrication. Since their origins in the 1960s, the size, speed, and capacity of chips have progressed enormously, driven by technical advances that allow more and more transistors on chips of the same size – a modern chip may have several billion transistors in an area the size of a human fingernail. These advances, roughly following Moore’s law, allow a computer chip of 2016 to have millions of times the capacity and thousands of times the speed of the computer chips of the early 1970s.

ICs have two main advantages over discrete circuits: cost and performance. Cost is low because the chips, with all their components, are printed as a unit by photolithography rather than being constructed one transistor at a time. Furthermore, packaged ICs use much less material than discrete circuits. Performance is high because the IC’s components switch quickly and consume little power (compared to their discrete counterparts) because of their small size and close proximity. The main disadvantage of ICs is the high cost to design them and fabricate the required photomasks. This high initial cost means ICs are only practical when high production volumes are anticipated.

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1983 – Pioneer 10 travels beyond Pluto’s orbit.

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Pioneer 10 (originally designated Pioneer F) is an American space probe, launched in 1972 and weighing 258 kilograms (569 pounds), that completed the first mission to the planet Jupiter. Thereafter, Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to achieve escape velocity from the Solar System. This space exploration project was conducted by the NASA Ames Research Center in California, and the space probe was manufactured by TRW Inc.

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