1st successful test of the transistor, December 16, 1947

What began as research to improve telephone service became one of the most important inventions in electronics history.
1st successful test of the transistor, December 16, 1947

In 1945, AT&T’s research division, Bell Labs, began working on technology to replace vacuum tubes and make long-distance telephone service more reliable. William Shockley organized a solid-state physics group to research semiconductor replacements for vacuum tubes and electromechanical switches.

Possibly influenced by JE Lilienfled’s idea for the field-effect transistor patented in 1926, Shockley conceived of a “field-effect” amplifier and switch based on recent germanium and silicon technology. He built a small cylinder coated thinly with silicon, mounted close to a small, metal plate, but was unable to get it to work.

A member of the research team, John Bardeen, suggested electrons on the semiconductor surface could be blocking the penetration of electric fields in Shockley’s experiments. Bardeen and Walter Brattain began using a silicon contraption built to help study how electrons acted on the surface of a semiconductor to test the theory.


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