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

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 (1)
lynn brielmaier30 Nov, 2022

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.

Agrivoltaics to optimize farmers’ yields—cropwise and energywise

By absorbing only the highest-energy photons, translucent solar panels minimize crop-stunting shade

4 min read
A plot of land in a field is shaded by a structure that causes the ground to be colored blue. Plants' growth is not impeded by the shade..

Solar filters emit a blue light over tomato plants growing in a research field at UC Davis in 2022.

Andre Daccache/UC Davis

There is no unused arable land on a planet that’s already struggling to support a human population that cleared 8 billion last month, and where roughly 1 million plants and animals are threatened with extinction. The pressure is palpable. In Montreal this week, activists and diplomats are negotiating a biodiversity treaty in an effort to reserve 30 percent of Earth’s surface for wildlife. This increasingly zero-sum competition for resources is what inspired University of California, Davis soil biophysics expert Majdi Abou Najm to start working on a land- and water-saving rethink of both solar energy and agriculture.

Instead of dedicating land exclusively for solar farms, Abou Najm is exploring how translucent photovoltaic panels erected over farm fields can be tuned to absorb and transmit optimal bands of sunlight to generate substantial power without stunting the development of crops growing below. In certain cases, the panels might even improve yields.

“The U.N. projects that humanity will need on the order of 60 percent more food, 40 percent more water, and 50 percent more energy by 2050. We are at a stage where fixing one issue at a time won’t work. We need to optimize,” says Abou Najm, who is a professor at the UC Davis Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources.

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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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