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Bell Telephone Laboratories - PV Arrays
January 1956 Radio-Electronics

January 1956 Radio-Electronics

January 1956 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.

The trend toward solar power is nothing new. Engineers and scientists have been working for decades to develop photovoltaic (PV) cells for converting sunlight into electricity. The challenge has been primarily a semiconductor compound and construction issue. Modern high efficiency solar cells are not the simple silicon types of yesteryear. Modern PV cells use a complex mixture of atoms and die layer configurations. The process for today's most efficient examples is difficult and expensive. There is also the problem of degrading performance over time with continued exposure to sunlight and environmental contamination (dust, dirt, rain, pollution chemicals, etc.). Newly installed array systems might boast 20%-25% efficiency, but five years later it is down measurably. After a decade and longer things can get really bad. This Bell Telephone Labs infomercial from a 1956 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine show a lineman installing a "solar battery" atop a pole for powering remote lines. Similar setups have long been common sights with roadside emergency phone boxes.

Bell Telephone Laboratories Ad

Bell Telephone Laboratories - PV Arrays, January 1956 Radio-Electronics - RF CafeWhere voices are powered by the sun

A new kind of telephone system developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories for rural areas is being operated experimentally by electric current derived from sunlight. Electric current is generated as sunlight falls on the Bell Solar Battery, which a lineman is seen adjusting in position.

The exciting achievement is made possible by two Laboratories inventions - the solar battery and the transistor. The new system uses transistors to the complete exclusion of electron tubes. Transistors require little power and this power can be easily supplied by the solar battery.

Compact and economical, the transistorized system can carry several voices simultaneously without interference. It has proved its ruggedness by standing up to heat, cold, rain and lightning. It promises more and improved telephone service for rural areas and it typifies the Laboratories' continuing efforts to make American telephony still better each year.

Lineman mounting solar battery on pole near Americus, Ga. The battery supplies power directly to the line by day and also charges a storage battery for nighttime use. The solar battery contains 432 specially prepared silicon cells, cushioned in oil and covered by glass.

In sending and receiving terminals, transistors are used as oscillators, amplifiers and regulators, and for signaling.

One of the transistors (actual size) used in the new system. New ideas, new tools. new equipment and new methods had to be developed for this project.

Bell Telephone Laboratories

Improving America's Telephone Service Provides Careers for Creative men in Scientific and Technical Fields



Posted November 15, 2022

DC-70 GHz RF Cables - RF Cafe

About RF Cafe

Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster

1996 - 2024


Kirt Blattenberger,


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...

Copyright  1996 - 2026

All trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other rights of ownership to images and text used on the RF Cafe website are hereby acknowledged.

My Hobby Website: AirplanesAndRockets.com | My Daughter's Website: EquineKingdom

KR Electronics (RF Filters) - RF Cafe


Innovative Power Products Passive RF Products - RF Cafe