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Bell Telephone Laboratories - Transistor's 10th Anniversary
June 1958 Radio & Television News

June 1958 Radio & TV News
June 1958 Radio & TV News Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

This Bell Telephone Laboratories (aka Bell Labs) advertisement appearing on the inside back cover of the 1958 issue of Radio & TV News magazine celebrated the 10th anniversary of their announcement of the world's first point contact transfer resistance (transresistance) semiconductor device  - aka the transistor. John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain recorded the monumental event in a lab notebook on December 23, 1947 - a nice Christmas present for the world! The trio's invention was not like the robust bipolar transistors used today, or even ten years later in 1958. Rather than employing point-contact "cat's whisker" metallic probes for making the emitter and collector contacts with the germanium PN base substrate, commercially viable bipolar transistors use a doping element diffused into the purified crystal substrate to effect the emitter, base, and collector regions on a single crystal (with gold contact pads for attaching external leads). Today's variety of transistor types and materials is a testament to the free market's ability to incentivize innovation (the profit motive for both fame and fortune).

Bell Telephone Laboratories Ad

 - RF Cafe1948 - Early "point contact" transistor.

The remarkable transistor observes its 10th birthday

In 1948, Bell Telephone Laboratories announced the invention of the transistor. In 1958, the transistor provided the radio voice for the first United States satellite.

To advance the transistor to its high level of usefulness, Bell Labs had solved problems which, in themselves, approached the invention of the transistor itself in scientific achievement.

First, there had to be germanium of flawless structure and unprecedented purity. This was obtained by growing large single crystals - and creating the "zone refining" technique to purify them to one harmful part in ten billion.

The "junction" transistor, another radical advance, spurred transistor use. Easier to design, lower in noise, higher in gain and efficiency, it became the heart of the new electronics.

An ingenious technique for diffusing a microscopically thin layer on semiconductors was created. The resulting "diffused base" transistor, a versatile broadband amplifier, made possible the wide use of transistorized circuits in telephony, FM, TV, computers and missiles.

In telephony the transistor began its career in the Direct Distance Dialing system which sends called telephone numbers from one exchange to another.

For Bell System communications, the transistor has made possible advances which would have been impossible or impractical a brief decade ago.

1958-Satellite transistor, incorporating 10 years of Bell Labs research and development.

Bell Telephone Laboratories World Center of Communications Research and Development

 

 

Posted April 17, 2020

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