The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

When Integrated Circuits Couldn’t Be Trusted

In the 1960s, microelectronics were often unreliable

1 min read
Photo: Randi Klett
Photo: Randi Klett

Today, few equipment manufacturers feel compelled to peer inside the little black boxes that litter modern circuit boards. But in the early days of ICs, reliability problems were common, as shown by this September 1967 ad for a Picker X-Ray microelectronics inspection machine. The machine is pictured in operation, checking incoming ICs at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., now Northrop Grumman Corp. The company was an appropriate choice because at the time, Grumman was building lunar landers as part of NASA’s Apollo program. The Apollo program was responsible for large improvements in the quality of ICs overall, as NASA and its contractors tracked down manufacturing problems that would otherwise threaten the ability to fly astronauts safely.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

How the Graphical User Interface Was Invented

Three decades of UI research came together in the mice, windows, and icons used today

18 min read
Stylized drawing of a desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, on the screen are windows, Icons, and menus
Getty Images/IEEE Spectrum

Mice, windows, icons, and menus: these are the ingredients of computer interfaces designed to be easy to grasp, simplicity itself to use, and straightforward to describe. The mouse is a pointer. Windows divide up the screen. Icons symbolize application programs and data. Menus list choices of action.

But the development of today’s graphical user interface was anything but simple. It took some 30 years of effort by engineers and computer scientists in universities, government laboratories, and corporate research groups, piggybacking on each other’s work, trying new ideas, repeating each other’s mistakes.

Keep Reading ↓Show less