Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Seed Of Enterprise Mobility Celebrates 60 Years

TRANSISTORS REPLACE TUBES - On the right are submini tubes used in a Zenith Royal hearing aid. The 201 date code represents week 1, 1952. On the left are examples of Raytheon CK718 junction transistors used in the Zenith Royal “T” hearing aid, with 252 representing week 52, 1952. In less than one year transistors had replaced the dominant vacuum tube technology in hearing aids. Caption and Image Credit: GERMANIUM TRANSISTOR MUSEUM

The Seed Of Enterprise Mobility Celebrates 60 Years

The transistor, the beginning of the move from vacuum tubes in electronic circuits used to amplify an electronic signal, was born sixty years and a couple of days ago when three physicists from Bell Labs, through experiments, had the semiconductor they were looking for.

One would think that the earth would shake at such a breakthrough, but the news was received by the New York Times and placed at the bottom of page 46 in a regular column named “News Of Radio”. No banner headlines, no tickertape parade, and barely a mention in the nation’s newspaper of the day.

The move from tubes to solid state, allowed for a transition in manufacturing and thinking of applications for electronic circuits beyond just that for the reduction of power consumption and heat associated with the replacement of the vacuum tube, it lead to miniaturization and eventually integrated circuits that are at the core of computers today.

In 1952 Intermetall unveiled what was probably the first transistorized portable radio on the Düsseldorf Radio fair. /// The first commercial transistor radio, the Regency TR-1, was announced on October 18, 1954 by the Regency Division of Industrial Development Engineering Associates of Indianapolis, Indiana and put on sale in November of 1954. /// It cost $49.95 (the equivalent of roughly $364 in year-2006 dollars) and sold about 150,000 units. Raytheon and Zenith Electronics transistor radios soon followed and were priced even higher. Even the first Japanese imports (in 1957) were priced at $30 and above. Transistor radios did not achieve mass popularity until the early 1960s when prices of some models fell below $20, then below $10 as markets became flooded with radios from Hong Kong by the mid to late 1960s. Caption and Image Credit: Wikipedia

This Excerpted from Forbes Magazine -

The Transistor's Birthday

Fred Allen, Forbes Magazine - 12.15.07, 10:30 AM ET

Sixty years ago, on Dec. 16, 1947, three physicists at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., built the world's first transistor. William Shockley, John Bardeen and William Brattain had been looking for a semiconductor amplifier to take the place of the vacuum tubes that made radios and other electronics so impossibly bulky, hot and power hungry. They were so instantly certain they'd found their answer that they didn't speak a word of it to anyone for six months, until they could experiment further and apply for patents.

Then on June 30, 1948, they held a press conference in New York City. They showed the world not only a big model of a transistor but also a TV and a radio with transistors in place of the tubes. Nobody was talking about anything like computers yet, but it was a first look at the future we all live in.
It sounded like a gimmick, and just too good to be true. The historian Robert Friedel quotes a Bell Labs engineer as saying, "The transistor in 1949 didn't seem like anything very revolutionary to me. It just seemed like another one of those crummy jobs that required one hell of a lot of overtime and a lot of guff from my wife." Only 20% of them worked. They were hard to manufacture. They required the design of new kinds of circuits. Even if they could eventually, theoretically, replace the vacuum tube, the tube worked well enough. How could they be worth the trouble?

But the technology kept improving. It got its first consumer application in December 1952 in a hearing aid, where it replaced one of three tubes and lowered battery costs. Then it took off. By 1954 the transistor was in 97% of hearing aids and sales of the devices were up 50%. That year the first transistor radio came out. It cost $49.95, the equivalent of $380 today.
Revolutions can take time. We think of the information revolution as having changed our world in an instant. But it took two later breakthroughs, each a full decade apart, before the transistor could even begin its ascent to the pinnacle of its capability--so far.

Between 1958 and 1959 two men working independently, Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments (nyse:
TXN - news - people ) and Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor (nyse: FCS - news - people ), figured out how to combine a sequence of transistors on a single wafer of silicon crystal. Now true miniaturization and mass production would begin to be possible.
Today a single advanced microprocessor can contain 1.7 billion transistors, and the transistors can be as small as 200 billionths of a meter. The numbers become dizzying. Gordon Moore, who quantified the effect of all those devices with his Moore's Law, estimates that every year "we make transistors amounting to a one followed by 17 zeros. ... We make about one transistor for every ant on earth these days--every year."

There's something satisfying about being able to trace back that truly ubiquitous, transformative technology, which we carry with us everywhere in numerous places on, and sometimes inside, our bodies. It runs almost everything in our lives that isn't strictly mechanical--to trace all that back to three men in a research office in 1947. It would be even more satisfying if those three men could have possibly envisioned what would grow out of their work. But that was no more possible than it is for us to see today what nanotechnology and whatever grows out of it will bring us 60 years from now. The only thing we can be sure of us is that the revolution isn't over. Hard as it is to fathom, it's only just begun.
Reference Here>>

Imagine, a cellphone built upon a vacuum technology platform! One would probably need a wheelbarrow and two assistants.

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