Building Blocks

by Cynthia Eller & Katie Neith

In today’s world, cell phones—and, in particular, their multifaceted brethren, smartphones— are nearly ubiquitous. In no small part, these palm-sized computers have revolutionized the way we communicate, learn, and live in the 21st century, replacing not only our landlines but our alarm clocks, books, cameras, calendars, and more. And that pocket full of powerful technology that most folks can’t leave home without—and may even be reading this magazine on—is chock full of Caltech innovations. “Caltech has always played a role in cutting-edge technologies that are game-changers,” says Vice Provost for Research Morteza Gharib (PhD ’83), who has served on the Institute’s faculty since 1993. “The work that’s been done here has taken those room-sized original computers and turned them into an iPhone.”

The smartphone is a marvel of miniaturized engineering. And at its most fundamental level lives the integrated circuit—or chip— which acts as a central hub that connects with and feeds power to all the other components in the phone. Behind that chip, says Gharib, is Caltech alum Gordon Moore (PhD ’54). “Gordon Moore is responsible—more than any other single individual—for putting a silicon chip in every personal computer worldwide,” Gharib says.

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