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Bell Telephone Laboratories
January 1954 Radio-Electronics Article

January 1954 Radio-Electronics

January 1954 Radio-Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Electronics, published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Accuse me of whatever you want, but I sure wish a lot of the early and middle 20th century stalwart industrial and technology companies were still around. Some exist as a remnant of their former selves after having been absorbed into some other company - often a foreign concern. Others have been broken into separate parts with new names (e.g., Hewlett Packard into HP & Agilent/Keysight) while losing their founding identities. A few have retained their name (or part of it) while being owned and managed by foreign companies. Bell Systems is probably the poster child and most famous company forced to surrender its identity due to a court-ordered breakup following a monopoly lawsuit. As I have mentioned many times before, Bell is responsible for America's dominance in telecommunications in the 20th century. In this 1954 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine announces Bell Telephone Labs' development of ultra pure germanium crystals for fabricating semiconductors. Be sure to check the huge list of Bell Telephone full-page advertisements from these vintage magazines.

Bell Telephone Laboratories - Germanium Crystal

Bell Telephone Laboratories, January 1954 Radio-Electronics - RF CafeGermanium crystal grown at Bell Telephone Laboratories (life size). It is sliced into hundreds of minute pieces to make Transistors. Transistor action depends on the flow of positive current-carriers as well as electrons, which are negative. Arsenic - a few parts per 100,000,000 - added to germanium produces prescribed excess of electrons. With gallium added, positive carriers predominate. Latest junction type Transistor uses both kinds of germanium in the form of a sandwich.

They Grew it for Transistors

Heart of a Transistor - Bell Telephone Laboratories' new pea-size amplifier - is a tiny piece of germanium. If Transistors are to do their many jobs well, this germanium must be of virtually perfect crystalline structure and uniform chemical composition. But it doesn't come that way in nature.

So - Bell scientists devised a new way to grow the kind of crystals they need, from a melt made of the natural product. By adding tiny amounts of special alloying substances to the melt, they produce germanium that is precisely tailored for specific uses in the telephone system.

This original technique is another example of the way Bell Laboratories makes basic discoveries - in this case the Transistor itself - and then follows up with practical ways to make them work for better telephone service.

Section of natural germanium, left, shows varying crystal structure. At right is sectioned single crystal grown at Bell Laboratories.

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Posted March 3, 2022

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RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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