Transistor celebrates 60th birthday

Yesterday marked the 60th birthday of the transistor, a remarkable creation born on 16 December 1947 at Bell Labs in the US.

Concealed neatly in the array of gadgets and gizmos we have come to accept as second-nature, the transistor has played a key role in the success of the PC and mobile phone and served as one of the fundamental building blocks of the digital age for both businesses and consumers alike.

As a result of their breakthrough invention, the brains behind the transistor, John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956.

"The invention of the transistor 60 years ago launched a transformation of our world that is still unfolding," George Scalise president of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). "The importance of this historic milestone cannot be overstated. The transistor is the key building block of countless electronics products that have revolutionised virtually every aspect of human life. This year the worldwide microelectronics industry will produce 900 million transistors for every man, woman, and child on earth - a total of 6,000,000,000,000,000,000 (6 quintillion) transistors."

Scalise added: "...The invention of the solid-state transistor was an essential precursor to the subsequent invention of the integrated circuit. The brilliant work of William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain laid the foundations for the worldwide semiconductor industry that will surpass $257 billion in sales this year."

Chip giant Intel's chairman Craig Barrett also paid tribute to the transistor. "[When the transistor was born] you could hold it in your hand and you could see it with the naked eye. Sixty years later it's so small you can't see them with the most powerful optical microscope," he said in an audio clip hosted on page on the company's website dedicated to the birthday celebrations.

Barrett concluded: "The transistor has changed the world, changed every one of us, the way we work, the way we learn, the way we play. It's probably the best friend we have going forward. Happy birthday transistor, you're amazing."

Image: Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.