It was just before
Christmas in 1948 that Bell Telephone Laboratories announced the
invention of the transistor by Messrs. Bardeen, Shockley, and Brattain.
Though constructed of a slab of germanium and a flimsy point contact of wire, it
represented for the first time the use of a semiconductor which exhibited signal
gain. The technical gauntlet had been thrown down for manufacturers worldwide to
develop improved versions with higher gain, wider operating frequency, greater
current and voltage handling, more robustness and higher power handling, while
shrinking the physical size of bare die and packaging, and lowering costs... and
doing it all without infringing on the blitzkrieg of patents being filed in
scores of countries. This self-promotion in a 1952 issue of Radio &
Television News magazine is typical of many
such ads run by Bell Labs over the years.
The Transistor - A picture report of progress
First Transistors were of this point contact type (picture three
times life size). Current is amplified as it flows between wires through a wafer
of germanium metal. These transistors are now being made at the Allentown plant
of Western Electric, manufacturing unit of the Bell System. They will be used in
a new selector which finds the best routes for calls in Long Distance dialing.
New Junction Transistors, still experimental, also use germanium
but have no point contacts. Current is amplified as it flows through germanium "sandwich"
- an electron-poor layer of the metal between two electron-rich ends. This new transistor
runs on as little as one-millionth of the power of small vacuum tubes.
Much Had to Be Learned, especially about the surface of germanium
and the effect of one part in a million of alloying materials. Transistors promise
many uses - as amplifiers, oscillators, modulators ... for Local and Long Distance
switching ... to count electrical pulses.
Assembly Problems, such as fixing hair-thin wires to barely
visible germanium wafers, have been solved through new tools and mechanized techniques.
Finished transistors withstand great vibration and shock. Engineers see many opportunities
for these rugged devices in national defense.
Moist Paper and Coin generate enough current to drive audio
oscillator using junction transistors. Half as big as a penny matchbox, an experimental
two-stage transistor amplifier does the work of miniature-tube amplifiers ten times
A tiny amplifying device first announced by Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1948
is about to appear as a versatile element in telephony.
Each step in the work on the transistor ... from original theory to initial production
technique ... has been carried on within the Laboratories. Thus, Bell scientists
demonstrate again how their skills in many fields, from theoretical physics to production
engineering, help improve telephone service.
Bell Telephone Laboratories
Improving telephone service for America provides careers for creative men in
scientific and technical fields.
Posted October 11, 2021