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The Lost History of the Transistor

How, 50 years ago, Texas Instruments and Bell Labs pushed electronics into the silicon age

15 min read
Photo of Gordon Teal and William Shockley
Photo: Texas Instruments

imgIn the Beginning: Gordon Teal (far left) directed the development of the silicon transistor at Texas Instruments. William Shockley (second from left) led the team at Bell Telephone Laboratories that developed the very first transistor, which was made of germanium. TI’s silicon device (second from right) with its three long leads became famous, making the Texas upstart the sole supplier of silicon transistors for several years in the 1950s. Morris Tanenbaum (far right) at Bell Labs actually made the first silicon transistor, but he felt “it didn’t look attractive” from a manufacturing point of view.Photo: Texas Instruments (Teal, Shepherd, and Transistor); Morris Tanenbaum

The speaker’s words were at once laconic and electrifying. “Contrary to what my colleagues have told you about the bleak prospects for silicon transistors,” he proclaimed in his matter-of-fact voice, “I happen to have a few of them here in my pocket.”

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Deep Learning Gets a Boost From New Reconfigurable Processor

The ReAAP processor allows AI to be faster, more efficient

2 min read
different colored beams of light shooting up
iStock

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Deep learning is a critical computing approach that is pushing the boundaries of technology – crunching immense amounts of data and uncovering subtle patterns that humans could never discern on their own. But for optimal performance, deep learning algorithms need to be supported with the right software compiler and hardware combinations. In particular, reconfigurable processors, which allow for flexible use of hardware resources for computing as needed, are key.

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Rory Cooper’s Wheelchair Tech Makes the World More Accessible

He has introduced customized controls and builds wheelchairs for rough terrain

6 min read
portrait of a man in a navy blue polo with greenery in the background
Abigail Albright

For more than 25 years, Rory Cooper has been developing technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Cooper began his work after a spinal cord injury in 1980 left him paralyzed from the waist down. First he modified the back brace he was required to wear. He then turned to building a better wheelchair and came up with an electric-powered version that helped its user stand up. He eventually discovered biomedical engineering and was inspired to focus his career on developing assistive technology. His inventions have helped countless wheelchair users get around with more ease and comfort.

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