July 1952 Radio-Electronics
[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.
In 1952 when this new
item appeared in Radio-Electronics magazine, a transistor production
rate of 8,500 per year was something to boast about. Most integrated circuits
these days contain at least that many transistors. Western Electric, the
telephone equipment manufacturing division of Bell Telephone, dominated the
market with a whopping 6,000 per year. They were also the only company producing
junction transistors, albeit on an experimental basis. The rest were point
contact types like the
Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley prototype from December 1948, which was only
three and a half years earlier. A typical transistor cost $18 in 1952, which is
the equivalent to $197 today, per the
BLS CPI Inflation Calculator. That was understandably considered an
impediment to widespread adaptation of the transistor when a vacuum tube would
set you back a buck or two.
Transistor Production at All-Time High Level
The transistor has emerged from the laboratory to become a full-fledged production
item. According to reports made at the Symposium on Progress in Quality Electronic
Components held in Washington early in May, nearly 8,500 transistors were being
produced monthly. Six companies were actually producing transistors in commercial
quantities, and two others expected to be ready to manufacture in appreciable quantities
within a few months.
Western Electric, with 6,000 transistors per month, was producing the bulk of
the output. Raytheon followed with 1,000 per month, with General Electric and RCA
making 800 and 400 respectively. RCA expected to up its output to between 2,000
and 3,000 per month by the end of the year, and other companies indicated that sharp
increases in production were expected, though the exact quantity to be produced
would depend on orders received.
Practically all the transistors now being manufactured or slated for immediate
future production are of the contact type. Only Western Electric reported manufacture
of junction transistors - on an experimental basis only, with an output of less
than 100 per month.
Military procurement accounts for 6,000 transistors per month; the output of
Western Electric being allocated as a result of an arrangement between the military
departments and the company.
The limited production still hampers widespread use of the transistor, as a manufacturer
would be unable to take a contract for equipment requiring a couple of thousand
transistors unless he could obtain the whole unallocated output of the country for
a month, or large fractions of it over a proportionally longer time. Price is the
other barrier to wider use. The units are listed in mail order catalogs today at
$18 each. Presumably those sold in larger quantities are somewhat - but not greatly
- cheaper. At a price so much greater than the vacuum tube, the transistor becomes
practical only when extreme miniaturization or other special necessity disqualifies
the tube for the application.
The table below, abstracted from a paper presented by Lt. Colonel W. F. Starr
at the Washington symposium, shows the present situation in transistor production.
Posted July 25, 2022