The Transistor: 60 Years Old and Still Switching

It's not like you can see it by looking at the case of iPod or PC, but without the transistor, we would have none of the "magic" electronic devices we now know and cannot live without.

Shockley had continued his semiconductor work, and in 1948 patented the modern junction transistor. Three years later, Bell Labs demonstrated part number M1752, though it was apparently produced only in prototype quantities.

The modern transistor was born. But it didn't immediately revolutionize the electronics industry, which continued its love affair with tubes. It wasn't till 1956 that Japan's ETL Mark 3, probably the first transistorized computer, appeared, but it used 130 point-contact transistors and wasn't a practical, saleable unit. The following year IBM started selling their 608 machine, which used 3,000 germanium transistors. It was the first commercial transistorized computer. The 608 used 90% less power than a comparable machine built using tubes. With a 100 KHz clock, 9 instructions, and 11 msec average multiplication time for two 9-digit BCD numbers, it had 40 words of core memory and weighed 2,400 pounds.

Next time you're playing a tune on your iPod, tip your hat to William Shockley.

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