Without a transistor, today’s world would look very different, yet this revolutionary electronic component has only been around for 75 years.
The anniversary of the transistor, “born” in 1947 in a Bell Labs laboratory and invented by William Shockley, John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, is unknown to many. Yet there is almost no person left in the world who has never come into contact with a transistor. The electronic component brought about a huge revolution in technology. Where until then relays and tubes dominated, they were quickly swept away by the much more practical transistor. Energy-efficient, fast and, above all, small. The transistor caused the great breakthrough of computers, but were also the impetus for ever further miniaturization. After all, a logical next step was to pack a lot of transistors together on – eventually – a piece of silicon. And so the IC or integrated circuit was born.
The first practical application of the transistor was a hearing aid that appeared on the market in 1953. It was soon followed by transistor radios, which made listening to music and, above all, the rapid spread of information commonplace. Anywhere, anytime. The transistor radio was what the smartphone means to today’s generation, and they made the world a whole lot smaller. you don’t see “loose” transistors as often nowadays, but they are still widely used. For example, in amplifier output stages (perhaps as a FET, or Field Effect Transistor), as a switching element in some device or in discreet built high-end equipment. The transistor sparked the electronic revolution 75 years ago, just as the steam engine did much earlier and marked the beginning of the industrial revolution. Whether this time-honored semiconductor will still exist 75 years from now? Probably, but there is a good chance it will have been overtaken by quantum-based components by then. Technical developments will continue until the end of time.