Genesis of the transistor, Bell labs

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Spence, Apr 5, 2012.

  1. Spence

    Thread Starter Member

    Apr 23, 2010
    49
    3
  2. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
    20,764
    2,534
    OK, so where are you wanting to go with this discussion?
     
  3. PackratKing

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    850
    215
    Nice history lesson for those of us that hadn't looked yet............:D
     
  4. Spence

    Thread Starter Member

    Apr 23, 2010
    49
    3
    Hi Bill, I thought it was interesting and might interest learners, if I'm mistaken then a moderator can remove it, I won't mind.
     
  5. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
    20,764
    2,534
    No, it was an honest question. You have to understand I've lived a lot of the history.

    I thought it was interesting that Shottky came very close to developing the FET first. Makes you wonder if transistors as we know them would have ever existed if he had.
     
  6. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    2,147
    300
    Now isn't that an interesting question. Despite what is sometimes said about them, At a pinch FETs can be made to do a lot of things for which many would regard BJTs as the more natural choice. For instance, I have worked on products which used power FETs as linear current controllers, the choice being made because of very limited drive capability from an application specific IC, and other commercial reasons.

    Had we initially got FETs, I suspect that bipolars would still have come in later as a niche product, but maybe would have stayed that way, who can really know?
     
  7. Spence

    Thread Starter Member

    Apr 23, 2010
    49
    3
    Absolutely, I thought it was fascinating how they theorised correctly right from the start, especially about the FET. How they were making electronic equipment from devices that they didn't fully understand, the microwave radar, and the gratitude we owe these giants of science. I always say that after the wheel, the transistor was the greatest invention.
     
  8. crutschow

    Expert

    Mar 14, 2008
    12,981
    3,221
    What's sad is that the great Bell Labs, where so many fundamental electronic discoveries and advances were made in the last century, is just a shadow of its former self. :(
     
  9. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
    20,764
    2,534
    Funny thing, I suspect they could be revived at the drop of a hat (not the company, but the model). There is no interest, since you can't show how it will make a profit. And yet, the companies created by this fundamental research still thrives.
     
  10. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    2,147
    300
    From most considerations I detest the idea of anyone having to endure the sort of crises such as our forbears went through in the 1930s and 1940s, but I wonder if some stress of this magnitude is required to focus people's ideas on things that lead to genuine progress and prosperity, instead of the financial conjuring tricks that seem to have dragged us into the mire in recent years.

    Why can't they get it: standing in a big circle passing pretend money about generates nothing. It's the economic equivalent of trying to make an o v 3 r you-know-what generator, in my opinion.

    I hate what has happened to many research facilities in this country. We once had considerable telecomms research facilities here too, not on the scale of Bell's perhaps but by no means negligible. A good deal of early work on radio, RADAR and TV was also done here, but the institutions that did this work are now gone, or are a shadow of what they were. Why? Because the bean-counters think that better short-term gain is made in other ways. Thus we do much less research, and our skills base degrades. Just how much of a disaster might be needed to buck our ideas up? (End of sick old man's rant.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2012
    PackratKing likes this.
  11. PackratKing

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    850
    215
    OOOOOOOOH Adjuster......I certainly agree with your take on "Beancounters" They are singularly the most irritating profession, and should not be allowed input on anything to do with engineering or production of discoveries.

    ANY science worth pursuing, tends to be insanely expensive, and their " Kawst Teww Muuch " [ sarcasm intended ] restrictions will keep us chained to the stone age.
     
  12. JMW

    Member

    Nov 21, 2011
    88
    8
    Don't think the bean counters had anything to do with it. Breaking up AT&T in the early '80s certainly changed things. Allowing the government to fund research signaled the death knell for the rest of it. Why spend the money when you can hire a grant writer and get free money. In addition, the patents are handled take a lot of incentive from the market. When did you ever hear of the FBI investigating patent infringement with same vigor as they prosecute music download sites? In closing with the environmental and other regulatory burdens, why bother.
    Don't blame the accountants, lawyers yes and the people WE elect to office.
     
  13. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,715
    4,788
    I agree with your sentiments.

    One thing we need to keep in mind is that, in general, human activity is focused on the near term issues. Most of the very achievements you mention, and so many others including things like jet aircract and computers, have their genesis not in some research effort with some long term view, but rather in an effort dedicated to extremely immediate concerns, such as winning a war. Even things such as the Apollo program and the efforts leading up to it would almost certainly not have happened, probably even to this date, had it not been for the Cold War tensions and perceived need to dominate space. Just look at how quickly the program withered and was then cancelled once it was clearly demonstrated to the world that we had the ability to deliver large warheads anywhere in the world reliably and repeatably.

    However, while I believe that major stress, especially something perceived as an "existential threat", almost always spurs significantly faster technological breakthroughs and developments, it is not fair to say that it is needed in order for any genuine progress to be made. That happens all the time, just at a much slower pace. The history of rockets and cannon provide a nice example of that for a period of well over a century. During interwar years, enthusiasts and scientists made incremental improvements until, on several occasions, rockets had greater range, accuracy, and payload than cannons. But once a major war started, improvements to cannons proved easier and quicker to achieve and so they quickly pushed rockets aside for the remainder of the war (and, of course, for many years afterward as the rocket folks kept making the slow progress and the cannon folk when back to being happy with what they ended the war with).
     
  14. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    2,147
    300
    On reflection, I will admit that there must be many factors affecting the waxing and waning of technical progress in different parts of the world. This has of course been a feature of the development of many different cultures over the millennia, with very productive work being done in different regions over time.

    It is also true that at at particular times certain bodies of knowledge or technology becoming available set the scene for major advances, naturally followed by periods of consolidation.

    That said, I think that recent attitudes in business have been especially unhelpful in the UK. In particular, we have seen a concentration on financial services at the expense of much other activity, during which time many commercial and academic research institutions have closed or declined.

    Now that we find ourselves in a period of long-term financial difficulty and austerity measures, can we hope for much better in future? In the end I hope so. After all, even the Great Depression did not freeze the development of electronics in the 1930s. We might wonder though how much of future progress may be seen in the East rather than the West.
     
  15. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    2,147
    300
    It wasn't quite as simple as that. During WW2, Germany did not completely abandon rocket development, as many of my father's generation found to their cost when V-weapons began falling on them. In the post-war era, a lot of German rocket technology and some skilled personnel were expatriated to the Allied nations, for instance Wernher von Braun, who later worked for NASA.
     
  16. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
    12,418
    3,355
    Springs to mind the research efforts and development of radio, radar and computers that sprung out of Bletchley Park during WWII.
     
  17. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
    12,418
    3,355
    I find the UK in a rather precarious situation having many years ago abandoned agriculture and manufacturing and hence resilience in favour of being a world financial centre which is simply an illusion. Financial services has got to be the epitome of bean counting.
     
    PackratKing likes this.
  18. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,715
    4,788
    Nothing as complex as this could ever be as simple as that, but I wasn't referring to WWII at all. I was referring to the history of rocketry primarily in the late 1700's until possibly the early 1900's. In particular, the Mysore rockets used against the British by the Indians, the Congreve rockets used by the British in the Napoleanic wars and also against the U.S. in the War of 1812 (and which the "rocket's red glare" refers to) and the Hale rockets used at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. The Chinese used them in warfare off and on nearly a thousand years ago and I suspect the "off and on" part was perhaps due to the same kind of catch up race with other technologies over time. I have read (but never been able to confirm) that at the 1428 Battle of Orleans (think Joan of Arc) that there were more rocketeers than archers because rockets had greater range, though the need for more rocketeers may also reflect the **** poor accuracy of rockets at that time.

    But even WWII partly illustrates the point. I don't think it can be said that at the outset of the war rockets had any kind of an advantage over artillery and that artillery caught up and passed it. I think the long build up to the war coupled with the relatively short time since WWI had the opposing sides equipped with capable artillery that rockets hadn't had time to evolve past yet. Throughout the war rockets were used for mass bombardment in tactical applications, both ground-based and air-to-ground. The push toward strategic rockets, though, underscored the time and effort needed to make significant improvements in rocket capabilities, even given major government support. But since that effort was aimed at game-changing improvements, it's difficult to compare to other areas. None-the-less, you had major advancements in things such as aircraft design that took place on the order of a few months.
     
Loading...