Who predicted integrated circuits in science fiction?

I am doing some research about the predictions in science fiction and in general speculation. I have found clues of prediction to almost anything, from the Internet and PCs, to credit cards, rockets, nanotechnology, lasers, the radio and TV.
However, a single invention has evaded me for a long time: integrated circuits.

Who predicted them?

Or, in an alternative answer, who predicted “crystals” will replaces vacuum tubes?

Somewhere I found that Hal Clement predicted them in 1940, but I never could find the tale where that happens.

Any clue to solve this mystery will be very much appreciated.


Do positronic brains count?

Yes. Asimov’s positronic brains are an interesting prediction. However, I look to something more specific.

I am reading the tale of Hal Clement called “Answer” right now. It is about a supercomputer in space that has some sort of “integrated” vacuum tube circuits… However, it doesn’t convince me much.

I am looking for some writer that say something like “hey, here we have a microscopic calculator made of crystals” :smiley: or something like that. Or some other writer that had predicted the Moore’s Law.

Any clue?

There was an SF story I read in the mid 1970s which was written sometime between the 50s & the 70s (not much help I know).

One of the plot devices was a “Wohlgren fine-grain memory cube.” This tech device was less than an inch on a side & held umpteen mongobytes of info using some no-moving-parts fantasy tech. It was used as an essentially limitless capacity recording medium. I think the story had some arm-waving explanation of how it worked, but as I was reading it in the 1970s their arm-waving was using physics quite different from what our then-current LSI & VLSI ICs used.

I’m not 100% sure of the spelling of “Wohlgren” It was the name of the putative inventor of the tech in the story.

That may give you enough clues to search.

If the story was written in the 70s, then it merely extrapolated forward towards where we were already going, with the key innovation being storage in 3D versus the esentially 2D nature of RAM / memory arrays then & even today.

But if written before about 1962 (?) it’d be a legit prediction of a then as-yet nonexistent tech.

It’s a Welton fine-grained memory cube. From Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, 1973.

I don’t know of anyone who predicted integrated circuits, specifically. But why would they? Most science fiction stories not only didn’t care about making specific predictions or explaining in detail how the technology metioned worked, but writers had learned when Hugo Gernsback was still editing that including such detail in their stories made them sound phony and instantly dated.

As a result, the vast majority of all “predictions” made by science fiction writers are found only retroactively. That is, people take whatever happens to exist in the present and go back and scour stories for any mention that can be twisted to fit into a prediction. There are many stories that are now created for “predicting” the internet. None of them did. They may have said that some future devices would allow better communications, but this is an obvious truth and they certainly weren’t thinking of the internet when they wrote it.

Worse, people assume that sf writers actually themselves made up the futures and future devices featured in their stories. Approximately 100% of these were taken from contemporary sources, just as today’s writers take their ideas from newspapers and science magazines and journal articles and other real-life idea sources. We’ve forgotten the real-world articles but the sf stories live on. That’s to their credit. But it robs other people of theirs.

[rant mode over]

Of course there is a story that predicted Internet precisely. But not only Internet and web sites, but also Internet shops, routers, PC technicians, cybercrime and many other amazing things.

Read: “The logic named Joe” by Murray Leinster (1946).

Yes, I know most science fiction writers of the 20th centuries were mediocre predictors, but some were extraordinary visionaries. I am only interested in the later set of writers.

I remember Isaac Asimov in Foundation describing a slide rule like device that was an I/O device to the ships computer. Well maybe we aren’t there yet.

I found out that in Superman II there is a scene about memory crystals. However, it is too late to be a “prediction” when holography exists since the 1960s.
However, I remember seen the Superman magazine when I was a kid in the 60s :eek: and I remember the refuge of Superman at the pole. However, I don’t remember if already used memory crystals as a way to store information.

This is getting very interesting.

Indeed. Asimov also describe portable calculators, like the one used by Hary Seldom. However, he never describe what is inside those gadgets.

I think the vacuum tubes in space thing was around for a while. The vacuum is free up there. But it sounds like you are looking for someone who predicted molecular logic components, or at least molecular analog components. I don’t think anybody really considered that, even for some time after the development of silicon semiconductors.

I remember reading that, and so I was amused when HP’s announcements about its research into memristors suggested twenty gigabytes of storage in a device the size and shape of a sugar cube. So the memory cube thing that Heinlein wrote about might actually come about.

How about a stack of SDHC micro cards?

This isn’t Sci-Fi, but Feynman’s 1959 talk *There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom *predicts large-scale integrated circuits:

*How can we make such a device? What kind of manufacturing processes would we use? One possibility we might consider, since we have talked about writing by putting atoms down in a certain arrangement, would be to evaporate the material, then evaporate the insulator next to it. Then, for the next layer, evaporate another position of a wire, another insulator, and so on. So, you simply evaporate until you have a block of stuff which has the elements— coils and condensers, transistors and so on—of exceedingly fine dimensions. *

Although real integrated circuits use a few more steps, Feynman gets it essentially correct with the notion of constructing circuits by layering, and that the basic components have no real size limits until you get down to atomic scale.

That said, primitive ICs had been created the year before (1958), and the idea of wiring by evaporating aluminum onto the wafer came in the same year. So I don’t know if this was a genuine prediction or if he just extrapolated from recent news (applying his knowledge that there are no fundamental limits to the process until you get to atoms).

How about a single microSDHC card? A sugar cube-sized stack would be nearly 400 GB.

Asimov’s story “The Last Question”, from 1956, predicts successive generations of computers getting smaller and smaller, including using a technology called “molecular gates”. He got the time scale horribly wrong, though, with molecular gates not coming until after hyperspace travel, some unspecified thousands of years in the future.

In “Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus” Asimov describes a handheld computer that seem pretty much like an I Phone. The city administrator uses one IIRC. Don’t think he mentioned much about the underlying technology, but such a device obviously wasn’t running on vacuum tubes.

Jerry Pournelle, in King David’s Spaceship, originally published in magazines Dec 1971 - Feb 1972, has Imperial officers equipped with a communicator/calculator device that seems to function quite similar to current smartphones.

Per the wiki on ICs even the notion of something like an IC was largely unknown before the mid 1940’s with primitive attempts to make them beginning around 1950.

With some technologies there is so much complex predicate foundation science required across numerous fields, that to make an intuitive leap that x in y form will exist is almost impossible.

As an example while there were lots of golden age sci fiction stories about eugenics in one form or another who predicted the direct slice and dice style manipulation of DNA before Crick and Watson (and others) laid out it’s structure?

My dad built and repaired vacuum tube radios. He was a fanatic of electronics, like many people around the world at that time. We listened to short wave radio and also transmitted. One of the things I remember was his fascination with “magic eyes” (light emiting diodes) and solid state devices, or crystals. I’m talking about crystals in the age before IC and before mass production of transistors.

So, I am sure crystals were part of the imagination of man before solid state physics was introduced… I am certain there were science fiction stories about diodes and crystals at the time, because we can see the echo of those old stories in movies like Superman II crystal memories…

Just help me to find **ANY **of those stories about crystals, electricity and memories that certainly may have been writen in the begginings of the twentieth century, during the Gersback years.

A bit off-topic, bt as a kid, I took apart an old Zenith brand table radio. It was built around 1950, and it did contain an intehgrated circuit (it was actually an array of resistors and capacitors-what would be called a “hybrid” circuit today.
Co, clearly, electronics engineers were thinking about such devices before the Texas Instruments 1961 patent (for ICs).