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Kurt Petersen, 2019 IEEE Medal of Honor Recipient, Is Mr. MEMS

An ink stain on the floor led to a lifetime of building micro devices and sensors and macro companies

12 min read
photo of Kurt Petersen
Photo: Peter Adams

It was 1975, and Kurt Petersen was a smart young researcher, fresh out of the Ph.D. program in electrical engineering at MIT and working in the optics group at IBM's Almaden, Calif., research center. And he was bored. Roaming the massive complex one day, he came across a huge black stain on the linoleum tiles of an otherwise nondescript hallway. That stain would change his life and the course of an entire industry.

In search of the source of the stain—he was that bored—Petersen walked into the nearest lab. The stain, he found out, came from an ink spill. The lab was developing inkjet printer nozzles by etching precise holes in silicon.

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The Transistor at 75

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

1 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.

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