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History of Transistors!

History | Transistor | 22nd September 2021 | Virtual Wire

Picture -IEEE Spectrum


Transistors are one of the greatest discoveries in history which led to the development of modern-day microprocessors.

It all began during the second world war people needed high-frequency devices but the vacuum tubes of that time couldn’t work at the frequencies desired. The developments in different fields like quantum mechanics also played an important role in the development of transistors. In the 1930’ a guy named Mervin Kelly decided that he should start a solid-state device group. During the second world war, there wasn’t much development seen in the field the only place where solid-state electronics was seen was in the radars.in 1946 Mervin Kelly formed another team led by Bill Shockley and Stanley Morgan.


The team also included Walter Brattain, John Bardeen, John Pearson, Bert Moore, and Robert Gibney. They decided to work only on silicon and germanium. The first and one of the most important development was that John Bardeen understood the field effects which is the base to the field-effect transistors we use in the present day. And finally, by the late November of 1947 Bardeen and Brattain made the first working transistor. It was crude before but by the December of the same year they managed to make a working point-contact transistor it was a great discovery and they gradually were also able to make a circuit to demonstrate it.


After few more months of work, Shockley was able to write down a theory for the bipolar junction transistors, which was later also verified. In 1950 they developed the first junction transistor but, still, people didn’t completely understand the transistors until the late 1950s. In 1952 the discovery of the zone refining. During the same time, Ian Ross and George Dacey made a unipolar device that is similar to modern-day FET. This year many things happened like bell labs sold the license to making transistors for a price of 25k dollars and an interesting thing happened that was while demonstrating to the people due to the weather the transistors didn’t work.


The same year Gordan Tell left Bell Labs to join a company named Geophysical Services Incorporated which is known to us today as Texas instruments. He started working on the transistors immediately also around the same time, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita had formed the Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo which was later renamed Sony who made the first transistor product which was a radio. TI had released an all-transistor radio a few years ago but the marketing ideas of Sony was better than TI’s. In 1956, Shockley, Brattain, and Bardeen won the Noble Prize for physics.


The next milestone was in 1957 Texas Instruments developed the mesa transistor. Then they also developed the first IC using mesa transistors. During that time many advancements happened but, the only problem was the presence of sodium as an impurity it would have a devastating effect on the transistors. After lots of research, Fairchild made the first IC and it used the planar process which is very much nearer to what we have today. It took so many years of work and effort to get from transistors to ICs.


Continuous work from 1947 to 1997 has brought us to where we are today, we have solved many problems we faced in the past like sodium etc. but, we still face some problems with the transistors. In present days we have successfully created transistors as small as the smallest dimension known to humans in the scale of nanometres and we have created microprocessors working up to a speed of 4.2 GHz.