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The Surprising Story of the First Microprocessors

You thought it started with the Intel 4004, but the tale is more complicated

12 min read
Photo: INTEL
Photo: INTEL

Transistors, the electronic amplifiers and switches found at the heart of everything from pocket radios to warehouse-size supercomputers, were invented in 1947. Early devices were of a type called bipolar transistors, which are still in use. By the 1960s, engineers had figured out how to combine multiple bipolar transistors into single integrated circuits. But because of the complex structure of these transistors, an integrated circuit could contain only a small number of them. So although a minicomputer built from bipolar integrated circuits was much smaller than earlier computers, it still required multiple boards with hundreds of chips.

In 1960, a new type of transistor was demonstrated: the metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) transistor. At first this technology wasn’t all that promising. These transistors were slower, less reliable, and more expensive than their bipolar counterparts. But by 1964, integrated circuits based on MOS transistors boasted higher densities and lower manufacturing costs than those of the bipolar competition. Integrated circuits continued to increase in complexity, as described by Moore’s Law, but now MOS technology took the lead.

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Vanadium Anodes for Faster-charging, Longer-lived Batteries

Startup TyFast aims for 3-minute charging, 20,000-cycle life

3 min read
A foil rectangle labelled Tyfast, with two silver squares coming out of the top.

Startup Tyfast is making batteries based on a new anode material that allow it to charge in minutes and last for several thousands of charge cycles

Tyfast

To fulfill the vision of EVs that travel a thousand miles or phones that run for days on a single charge, most battery developers are racing to make batteries that can pack twice the energy in the same weight.

Not startup Tyfast, which is “approaching next-generation battery development in a counter-current direction,” says GJ la O’, CEO and cofounder of the 2021 spinoff from the University of California, San Diego.

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IEEE STEM Activity Kits Are In Demand at 150 U.S. Public Libraries

Kids can build robots, write code, and design video games

4 min read
Two boys and one girl standing in front of a computer monitor. On the left side of the monitor is a backpack containing a science activity kit.

These youngsters are checking out one of their local library’s IEEE-funded science activity kits.

John Zulaski

More than 150 public libraries throughout the central United States now lend out activity kits that let children explore just about any aspect of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The kids can check them out just like they would a book. The kits teach youngsters what engineers do, as well as how to code, build robots, design video games, and create animations.

The collections have been made possible by the IEEE Region 4 Science Kits for Public Libraries program with funding from Region 4 members and corporate sponsors. The SKPL program is the brainchild of IEEE Life Senior Member John A. Zulaski, the chair of the SKPL committee.

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