Skip to main content International
The Web      Powered by

Silicon chip 'most influential invention'

Readers vote in three-month poll

The silicon chip is the most significant invention of the past 50 years, according to users
Find out how technology, science and invention are shaping your world with Explorers
What has been the most significant invention or discovery of the past 50 years?  VOTE NOW
Read  what leading inventor Trevor Baylis has to say about your ideas
CNN asked leading figures to describe the inventions and discoveries that have changed their lives. 
Kelly Holmes:  "Without planes I wouldn't be able to do what I do."
Jim Courier: "The airplane has had a bog impact on my life."
Richard Branson: "I love the freedom that my phone gives me."
James Dyson: "One of the most fun inventions of my lifetime is the Mini."
Click here for more Designs for Life and Explorers stories
Follow the news that matters to you. Create your own alert to be notified on topics you're interested in.

Or, visit Popular Alerts for suggestions.

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The silicon chip is the most significant invention developed during the past 50 years, according to a poll of users.

More than 119,000 users voted in the three-month online survey, part of the Explorers special report, looking at technology of the past, present and future.

Twenty four percent -- or 28,500 people -- of those who voted believed the silicon chip was the most important of the 24 inventions listed.

Number two was the World Wide Web, taking 20 percent (23,600) of the votes, and third was the Personal Computer, with 17 percent (20,700) of the votes.

The invention that attracted the least number of votes was the Walkman, barely managing to register a percentage, with just 140 votes.

The silicon chip was invented in 1961 by two American electrical engineers, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce.

Their creation revolutionized and miniaturized technology and paved the way for the development of the modern computer.

Until the chip was invented, most electrical devices were constructed using bulky, power-hungry vacuum tube technology.

The development of transistors partially solved the problem but these still had to be wired to circuit boards.

Kilby and Noyce hit on the solution almost simultaneously, combining separate components in an integrated circuit made of a semi-conductor material.

Intel founder Noyce, working in Palo Alto, California, favored silicon and can thus be credited as the man who put the silicon in "Silicon Valley."

CNN's Explorers special report also featured high-profile figures from a variety of sectors and asked them about the technology or invention that had most influenced their lives.

British Olympic athlete Kelly Holmes and Former U.S. tennis ace Jim Courier both talked about the importance of air travel had on their sporting careers.

"If there was no air travel, I wouldn't be able to race overseas and I wouldn't have an international career. I simply wouldn't be able to do what I do," Holmes said.

British entrepreneur Richard Branson revealed that the one invention he would not be without was his mobile phone.

"I love the freedom of movement that my phone gives me. That has definitely transformed my life," Branson told CNN.

Designer of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, James Dyson, shared his thoughts on his passion for the Mini car and praised it for being a "fun" invention.

As part of the Explorers project, CNN also asked users to write in with their inventions, and got Trevor Baylis, who created the clockwork radio, to comment on some of the more creative ones.

His favorite of these was a Canadian user's suggestion for a voice-activated talking stove for people who are visually impaired.

"This is a jolly good idea -- this type of device could be used in many circumstances. Full marks for this invention," Baylis said.

He told CNN that the Explorers Web site had encouraged people to share their ideas for inventions.

"I believe there is an invention in all of us. If you can solve a problem in a way no-one else thinks of, you are already on your way to being an inventor."

Baylis considered the jet engine full story to be the most important invention of the past 50 years, but told CNN that the wireless radio had also been a marvelous invention.

The radio was invented in 1901 by Guglielmo Marconi.

Baylis used the tsunami disaster as an example of the wireless radio's ability to give people valuable information during times of crisis.

He said that it should be noted that those who voted in the Explorers poll largely represented developing countries, because they were more likely to have access to computers, and that had to be considered when analyzing the results.

He said the World Wide Web was probably the modern day equivalent of the radio but Personal Computers were not as accessible or as small as transistor radios.

Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
Burgers, lattes and CD burners
Top Stories
EU 'crisis' after summit failure

On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.