56-year-old microchip could fetch up to $2M at auction

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The prototype microchip (Source: Christie’s)

Christie’s is going to be auctioning off a piece of tech industry history next month.

The venerable auction house announced today that it plans to sell a prototype integrated circuit built as a part of Jack Kilby’s Nobel Prize-winning work at Texas Instruments.

The chip, which was built by Tom Yeargan, is composed of a “doubly diffused germanium wafer with flying gold wire and four leads,” and led to the creation of chips that drive most of today’s major technological innovations. That makes it a perfect candidate for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Living Computer Museum in Seattle. Here’s a description from the press release:

The chip is mounted on glass and enclosed in a plastic case belonging to Yeargan, with a label signed by Jack Kilby, and is accompanied by another prototype, a silicon circuit with five gold and platinum leads, and a three-page statement by Tom Yeargan on the chronology and building of the invention of the integrated circuit, dated March 6, 1964.

Allen could use the proceeds from his recent $56.2 million sale of Mark Rothko’s “Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange)” to pick up the chip, which could then join the other computer artifacts in the museum, including the CDC 6500 supercomputer and the PDP-7.

Still, it’s unclear if the chip will make the trip to Seattle. A representative for Allen declined to comment on this report, saying that the Microsoft co-founder’s interest in the piece was not known at the time.