December 16, 2012 - Anniversary of the Invention of the Transistor

Ho, hum. So somebody invented a new way of regulating electrical current and amplifying and switching electronic signals. Some dreary physicists who got a Nobel Prize for their efforts—hooray for them!—but why would anyone else care?

But when William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain invented the transistor on this date in 1947, they ushered in an entirely new era of electronics and made possible the integrated circuit and microprocessor.

Almost everything we build these days depends on transistors! So, hooray for all of us—and happy birthday, transistors!

Did you know...?

  • The word “transistor” was created by shortening the words transfer resistor. (That makes the word a “portmanteau,” like “smog,” with was created by combining smoke and fog.)
  • Modern integrated circuits (or computer microchips) have billions of transistors!
  • Before transistors, amplification of radio signals and other electronic signals was obtained by vacuum tubes. However, vacuum tubes were bulky and fragile, and they consumed a lot of power.

You can imagine the world of the 1940s, when radios were pieces of furniture and there was no way to “take music with you.” 

  • In 1954 transistor radios were introduced, and suddenly music became portable—pocket-sized, even! It was a revolution, and the transistor radio became the most popular electronic communication device in history. Billions were manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s.
That dark thing between the boys'
cheek and shoulder isn't a cell phone. Those hadn't been
invented yet! It's a transistor radio.

  • Transistor radios were so popular that some were manufactured as novelty or advertising items. You will probably have to do some research to understand why the Jimmy Carter radio was peanut-shaped, or what the “Mork from Ork” egg-shaped radio was all about. People could buy Charlie the Tuna-shaped radios from Star-Kist or Donald Duck-shaped radios from Disney!

Also on this date:

Kazakhstan's Independence Day

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