Who Invented the Transistor?
A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit.
A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor’s terminals changes the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.
First conceived by Julius Lilienfeld in 1926 and practically implemented in 1947 by American physicists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley, the transistor revolutionized the field of electronics, and paved the way for smaller and cheaper radios, calculators, and computers, among other things.
The transistor is an influential invention that changed the course of history for computers. The first generation of computers used vacuum tubes; the second generation of computers used transistors; the third generation of computers used integrated circuits and the fourth generation of computers used microprocessors.
John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain, scientists at the Bell telephone laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, were researching the behavior of crystals (Germanium) as semi-conductors in an attempt to replace vacuum tubes as mechanical relays in telecommunications.
The vacuum tube, used to amplify music and voice, made long-distance calling practical, but the tubes consumed power, created heat and burned out rapidly, requiring high maintenance.
The team’s research was about to come to a fruitless end when last attempts to try a purer substance as a contact point lead to the invention of the ‘point-contact’ transistor amplifier. John Bardeen and Walter Brattain took out a patent for their transistor. In 1956, the team received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of the transistor.