Electrical/Electronic inventions that changed the world – The Transistor (1947)

Electrical/Electronic inventions that changed the world

The Transistor (1947)

John Bardeen (1908- 1991), William Shockley (1910- 1989), Walter Brattain (1901- 1987)

The development of the transistor is consider as a true landmark invention of the twentieth century.

The transistor was developed in the United States at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. Scientists, John Bardeen (1908- 1991), William Shockley (1910- 1989), Walter Brattain (1901- 1987) were researching the behaviour and suitability of germanium crystals for use as semiconductors that could replace the thermionic valve ‘diode’. When this was successfully achieved, the same group turned their attention to the considerably more demanding task of creating a solid-state germanium triode, one that could replace the ubiquitous valve equivalents. Since the development and evolution of the triode valve during the early years of the twentieth century, the triode had been at the very heart of every piece of electronic equipment. However, thermionic valves consumed large amounts of electrical power and created at times an unacceptable level of heat and similar to the electric light bulb from which they evolved, thermionic valves had a short life span.

On December 16 1947, Bardeen, Shockley and Brattain created the first transistor, so named from the “trans” of transmitter and “sistor” of resistor. A week later they gave the first public demonstration of the solid state device hence December 23, 1947, is usually cited as the birthday of the transistor. The prototype transistor was tiny, consumed very little power and gave off little heat. It was also supremely practical in its behaviour.

Within a decade, valve technology in most commercial applications was rendered all but obsolete.

Presently, a device with one of the highest transistorcount is a graphics processing unit (GPU), with 54 billion transistors.


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