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Replica of the first transistor

Replica of the first transistor

I’m a little late posting this, but better late than never. And even if it isn’t better, I’m posting it anyway.

It’s hard to believe in these days of computers and iPhones, but the transistor, the basic core electrical component that enables these wonders, is 65 years old.

Bardeen, Shockley, and Brattain, 1948

Bardeen, Shockley, and Brattain, 1948

Several people could claim to have invented the transistor, but December 16th, 1947 is generally recognized as the day on which John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, made the first working transistor at Bell Labs. In all honesty they probably weren’t the first to make a working transistor, nor was the device they made even called a transistor, the name wasn’t coined until a year later.

The two notable names associated with transistor design before Bradeen and Brattain, were Julius Lilienfeld and Oskar Heil, both from Germany. These two, working separately, patented designs during the 1930s, but it appears they never created functioning examples.

At Bell Labs, William Shockley (who ran the Solid State Physics Group with Bardeen and Brattain as members) went on to perfect a simpler, smaller and more robust design just a year or two later. By 1952 Shockley’s design was in production and it became the basis for transistors for the next ten years.

Bell Labs licensed production of transistors to many organizations. One of them was a small Japanese company by the name of Sony, who went on to use the transistor (principally in radios) to began the whole consumer electronics market. Today a modern microprocessor uses about 3 billion transistors in each chip, and around 80 million transistors are made for each and every human being on the planet.

Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley went on to receive the Nobel Prize for physics. The transistor has gone on to new technologies, and devices exist today that were inconceivable 65 years ago, just as life today would be inconceivable without them.

Happy birthday dear transistor,
Happy birthday to you.


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