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Tech Talk

Happy Birthday To You


Happy Birthday To You…

Happy Birthday To You…

So just whose birthday are we celebrating? Well it’s the ubiquitous, but quite amazing Transistor!

Transistors turned 67 this week way back in 1947 – the same year the US Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager, flying the Bell X-1 rocket plane broke the speed of sound. This was also the same year that the Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered at Qumran. Much had happened in the two years since the end of World War 2, the world was a hot bed of change and innovation.

During December 1947 a company called Bell Labs, (Bell being a company that might just ring a bell with you!  Its founder was none other than Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of a device that transmitted sound, more commonly known as the telephone!)  Scientists John BardeenWalter Brattain, and William Shockley designed an amplifier using gold contacts and a germanium crystal. This first transistor was able to boost the inputted signal by over 100 times. On the 23rd of December they demonstrated it to the rest of their fellow scientists at Bell Labs who immediately saw its potential.

The term transistor was coined by a Walter Brattain’s supervisor, John Pierce who combined the words ‘transfer’ and ‘resistor’ to name this novel electronic component. Transistors were soon to supplant the vacuum tube because they had revolutionary advantages, unlike the vacuum tube they didn’t require to be preheated before being operational and as such could be made far smaller – They also consumed a meagre quantity of power in comparison, this enabled electronics to packed in at ever increasing densities and was a crucial step to the modern semiconductor derived electronics we see and use today.

The transistor has been sighted as one of the greatest technological developments of the last century, (,  and although it often overlooked it really represents a paradigm shift in the electronics world, just search for the term ‘transistor’ on Google to see how trans-formative this amazing component has been.

Whether it’s a single discrete transistor or a complex integrated circuit containing billions of them; Happy Birthday to you!