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= The First Transistor


In 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, working at Bell Telephone Laboratories, were trying to understand the nature of the electrons at the interface between a metal and a semiconductor. They realized that by making two point contacts very close to one another, they could make a three terminal device - the first "point contact" transistor.

They quickly made a few of these transistors and connected them with some other components to make an audio amplifier. This audio amplifier was shown to chief executives at Bell Telephone Company, who were very impressed that it didn't need time to "warm up" (like the heaters in vacuum tube circuits). They immediately realized the power of this new technology.

This invention was the spark that ignited a huge research effort in solid state electronics. Bardeen and Brattain received the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1956, together with William Shockley, "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect." Shockley had developed a so-called junction transistor, which was built on thin slices of different types of semiconductor material pressed together. The junction transistor was easier to understand theoretically, and could be manufactured more reliably.

= Transistor Development

For many years, transistors were made as individual electronic components and were connected to other electronic components (resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, etc.) on boards to make an electronic circuit. They were much smaller than vacuum tubes and consumed much less power. Electronic circuits could be made more complex, with more transistors switching faster than tubes.

However, it did not take long before the limits of this circuit construction technique were reached. Circuits based on individual transistors became too large and too difficult to assemble. There were simply too many electronic components to deal with. The transistor circuits were faster than vacuum tube circuits, and there were noticeable problems due to time delays for electric signals to propagate a long distance in these large circuits. To make the circuits even faster, one needed to pack the transistors closer and closer together.

= The Integrated Circuit

In 1958 and 1959, Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce at Fairchild Camera, came up with a solution to the problem of large numbers of components, and the integrated circuit was developed. Instead of making transistors one-by-one, several transistors could be made at the same time, on the same piece of semiconductor. Not only transistors, but other electric components such as resistors, capacitors and diodes could be made by the same process with the same materials.

For more than 30 years, since the 1960's, the number of transistors per unit area has been doubling every 1.5 years. This fantastic progression of circuit fabrication is known as Moore's law, after Gordon Moore, one of the early integrated circuit pioneers and founders of Intel Corporation. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2000 was awarded to Jack Kilby for the invention of the integrated circuit. This was the start of revolution of microprocessors and microcontrollers which used in all microcomputers and most of advanced factories today.

 


Transistor Inventors

 

 


The First Transistor

 

 

 


Integrated Circuit

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