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back to article The transistor turns 60

The transistor, the ubiquitous building block of all electronic circuits, will be 60 years old on Sunday. The device is jointly credited to William Shockley (1910-1989), John Bardeen (1908-1991) and Walter Brattain (1902-1987), and it was Bardeen and Brattain who made the first working point-contact transistor on 16 December …

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Should be "The transistor turns 77"

Analog SF, in their March 1965 issue ran a (factual) article entitled "The Twenty Lost Years of Solid State Physics", in respect of Lillienfields patent (No. 1745175) of what is clearly an NPN transistor. The article went as far as to print the actual patent documentation. It just goes to show that the US Patents Office current policy of granting patents on established art is nothing new.

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IT Angle

Let's see the documentation

First off, the reviewer of the patent has to be aware of the prior art. Try a patent search sometime and see if you can find what you are looking for. The reviewers are generlly grad students working their way through college. They don't have the experience to do a good search. Remember this was the paper filing system days.

Maybe the register can publish a link to the patents involved.

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Only after the IC?

The idea that transistors were only important for switching uses after the invention of the IC is ludicrous. The CDC6600 and IBM360 were both important computers that used transistors, but not ICs, as were all the early DEC machines, STRETCH, well, the list is pretty long. Seems like another case where the author has confused "where I came in" with "what actually happened".

(To the pedants, the SLT modules in the 360 were _not_ ICs, even though they have been described as such by some confused souls)

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We should also remember vacuum tubes

Which are (almost) 100 years old as well. Any way you can amplify a signal works for me. If I were doing it from scratch and knowing about vacuum tubes AND transistors, I'd pick vacuum tubes as they would be easier to make. Yes, hotter, and bulkier, but easier to make.

Look I'm the USA, and we call them vacuum tubes here, not "valves".

I don't have the exact date of Lee DeForest's invention with me at the moment so the 100 year difference may be off by a couple either way.

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Switch me on, baby

I understood that Bell were only really interested in the transformer as a switch initially. As a result, they sold the rights for amplifier use to the nascent Sony for a handful of beans. Shortly afterwards Sony produced the first all-transistor radio and then the all-transistor television ...

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Happy

Transistor approaches 100 years old ?

Couple of points here:

I have just looked at Lilienfeld's 1930 transistor patent, applied for in 1926, US1745175 which is available on line from the EPO ep.espacenet.com . It even gives a circuit diagram for a transistor radio. The transistor itself seems to be a FET rather than an NPN junction transistor.

There is an even earlier transistor patent dating from 1911, which was cited by the British patent office when they were examining the Schockley / Bell labs case. That one is a three terminal point contact device. Unfortunately I do not remember the number or the inventor. Does anyone else have details?

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Stop

We're all 9 months older today...

as Reg readers decide to redefine "birth" as "conception".

The birth of trasistor was properly dated to the first successful construction of the device, not to the first conception of the idea.

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