Jack Kilby, whose work in the late 1950s on the integrated circuit paved the way for the modern computing era, has died aged 81 after a brief struggle against cancer.

The Nobel Prize-winning engineer developed one of the first integrated circuits, a collection of transistors organised to work on computing tasks. Kilby and Texas Instruments (TI) built an integrated circuit in 1958, and filed for a patent for the device in 1959, a few months before Intel co-founder Robert Noyce also filed for an integrated circuit patent while employed by Fairchild Semiconductor.

Fairchild and TI eventually settled subsequent legal arguments over the creation of the first integrated circuit and cross-licensed their technologies, allowing the semi-conductor industry to flourish.

But Kilby was also responsible for several other groundbreaking inventions while employed by TI, including a handheld electronic calculator and a thermal printer. "Jack was one of the true pioneers of the semi-conductor industry," said TI head Rich Templeton. "Every engineer, myself included, owes no small part of their livelihood to the work Jack Kilby did here at Texas Instruments. We will miss him."

Kilby worked for TI from 1958 to 1983, holding several management positions over his tenure. He was also a professor at Texas A&M University from 1978 to 1984.

He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his contributions to the development of the integrated circuit.

Kilby leaves two daughters, five grandaugthers and a son-in-law.