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Rise of the transistor

Last week I told about the birthday of the text message, and how that has shaped and moulded the mobile phone into what we know it to be today. Well today we will look at another invention that perhaps is even more important, the transistor.

Without it our modern world wouldn’t be possible. It is, arguably, the most important scientific advancement of the 20th century and last weekend it officially entered its golden years.

Sixty five years ago William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain worked tirelessly to create the world’s first point-contact transistor, a direct precursor to the electronic component that powers everything from radios and microwaves, to super computers and smartphones.

For those of you who aren’t 100 per cent sure, a transistor is a device that is used to amplify and switch electronic signals. The first real success came with experiments on December 16, 1947, although work had begun decades before, with the FET (field-effect transistor) first patented in 1925. However, it really wasn’t before World War II that Bell Labs went full steam ahead and started putting serious work into the technology.

This research eventually gave birth to basic building blocks of logic gates, which in turn gave rise to integrated circuits and other basic components found in things we use every day. It’s hard to imagine life without the PC or TV or even your mobile phone, and though they say nothing good ever comes from war, this invention wasn’t all bad. So let’s raise our glasses in remembrance of these three who have made our high tech lives what it is today.

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