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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan
LightGreen

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.


This article is part of our special report on the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor.

In “The First Transistor and How it Worked,” Glenn Zorpette dives deep into how the point-contact transistor came to be. Then, in “The Ultimate Transistor Timeline,” Stephen Cass lays out the device’s evolution, from the flurry of successors to the point-contact transistor to the complex devices in today’s laboratories that might one day go commercial. The transistor would never have become so useful and so ubiquitous if the semiconductor industry had not succeeded in making it small and cheap. We try to give you a sense of that scale in “The State of the Transistor.”

So what’s next in transistor technology? In less than 10 years’ time, transistors could take to the third dimension, stacked atop each other, write Marko Radosavljevic and Jack Kavalieros in “Taking Moore’s Law to New Heights.” And we asked experts what the transistor will be like on the 100th anniversary of its invention in “The Transistor of 2047.”

Meanwhile, IEEE’s celebration of the transistor’s 75th anniversary continues. The Electron Devices Society has been at it all year, writes Joanna Goodrich in The Institute, and has events planned into 2023 that you can get involved in. So go out and celebrate the device that made the modern world possible.

The Transistor at 75

The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

How the First Transistor Worked

Even its inventors didn’t fully understand the point-contact transistor

The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

The State of the Transistor in 3 Charts

In 75 years, it’s become tiny, mighty, ubiquitous, and just plain weird

3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

The Transistor of 2047: Expert Predictions

What will the device be like on its 100th anniversary?

The Future of the Transistor Is Our Future

Nothing but better devices can tackle humanity’s growing challenges

John Bardeen’s Terrific Transistorized Music Box

This simple gadget showed off the magic of the first transistor

The Conversation (2)
Ashok Deobhakta28 Dec, 2022
SM

So very interesting and exciting articles about, The Transistor!

lynn brielmaier30 Nov, 2022
M

One of my college lab projects in 1980, an IR remote with several discreet transistors and power transistors, physically caught fire and burned. I miss Radio Shack.

Caltech Team Launches Experimental Space-Based Solar Array

The satellite will test some of the tech needed to wirelessly beam power from orbit

4 min read
A lightweight gold-colored square frame for a solar power array, seen flying in space with Earth in background.

Artist's conception of Caltech's Space Solar Power Demonstrator in Earth orbit.

Caltech

For about as long as engineers have talked about beaming solar power to Earth from space, they’ve had to caution that it was an idea unlikely to become real anytime soon. Elaborate designs for orbiting solar farms have circulated for decades—but since photovoltaic cells were inefficient, any arrays would need to be the size of cities. The plans got no closer to space than the upper shelves of libraries.

That’s beginning to change. Right now, in a sun-synchronous orbit about 525 kilometers overhead, there is a small experimental satellite called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator One (SSPD-1 for short). It was designed and built by a team at the California Institute of Technology, funded by donations from the California real estate developer Donald Bren, and launched on 3 January—among 113 other small payloads—on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“To the best of our knowledge, this would be the first demonstration of actual power transfer in space, of wireless power transfer,” says Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering at Caltech and a codirector of the program behind SSPD-1, the Space Solar Power Project.

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How to Stake Electronic Components Using Adhesives

Staking provides extra mechanical support for various electronic parts

2 min read
Adhesive staking of DIP component on a circuit board using Master Bond EP17HTDA-1.

The main use for adhesive staking is to provide extra mechanical support for electronic components and other parts that may be damaged due to vibration, shock, or handling.

Master Bond

This is a sponsored article brought to you by Master Bond.

Sensitive electronic components and other parts that may be damaged due to vibration, shock, or handling can often benefit from adhesive staking. Staking provides additional mechanical reinforcement to these delicate pieces.

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