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The Transistor's 60th Birthday

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the silly-hats-will-be-worn dept.

Businesses 185

Apple Acolyte sends in a Forbes piece noting the 60th birthday of the transistor on Dec, 16. For the occasion the AP provides the obligatory Moore's-Law-is-ending, no-it-isn't article. From Forbes: "Sixty years ago, on Dec. 16, 1947, three physicists at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., built the world's first transistor. William Shockley, John Bardeen and William Brattain had been looking for a semiconductor amplifier to take the place of the vacuum tubes that made radios and other electronics so impossibly bulky, hot and power hungry."

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The hell? (4, Funny)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715800)

This post is at least 5 minutes old and no comments?

Either no one cares about the poor transistor, or you've all gotten lives.

Re:The hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21715826)

Must take transistors some time to warm up.

Re:The hell? (-1, Flamebait)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715898)

Maybe no one wants to honour a notorious racist like William Shockley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shockley#Beliefs_about_populations_and_genetics [wikipedia.org]

Re:The hell? (1, Offtopic)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715986)

That has absolutely no bearing on the invention of the transistor itself and it demeans his co-inventors who had nothing to do with Shockleys beliefs. Also, please consider that racism was much less frowned upon in the 50's of the previous century and that plenty of those oldies just never saw the error of their ways, which is unfortunate but understandable if you look at it from a slightly different perspective. If someone has been behaving in a certain way for a good portion of their lives it becomes a direct onslaught to their identity to ask of them to change. Many religious people have similar issues, they've been living the lie for too long to let go of it, but we don't have as much of a problem with that as we do with racism (even though the number of people afflicted and the damage levels are probably comparable).

Re:The hell? (2, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716066)

Maybe no one wants to honour a notorious racist like William Shockley

Maybe you didn't read the article you linked to: "In 1981 he filed a libel suit against the Atlanta Constitution after a reporter called him a "Hitlerite" and compared his racial views to the Nazis. Shockley won the suit"

Re:The hell? (4, Interesting)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717580)

Maybe no one wants to honour a notorious racist like William Shockley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shockley#Beliefs_about_populations_and_genetics [wikipedia.org]

It's sad that when someone applies scientific principles to a politically charged situation they're framed as a bigot.

It is true that unskilled, poor, unintelligent people have more children. They simply have more time on their hands and less grasp of the consequences children will have on their lifestyle and they tend to have less access (voluntarily or financially) to proper modern birth control methods and hey, when you've got a lot of time on your hand sex is a great passtime!

Shockley did conclude through his research that this happens more with black families than with whites, however he proposed that all people with sub-100 IQs (no further qualification) should be paid for voluntary sterilization.

His ideas while radical at the time have been tossed around for decades. It is widely held that uneducated, unskilled people who do either no or menial labour greatly increase the chances that their children will do much of the same later in life. It's why ghetto-style atmospheres tend to be cyclical and highly self-supporting. It's also why people who "escape" from that life are notable exceptions.

The man was a scientist and one who contributed one of the most pivotal pieces of our way of life to date. That's not something that should be undermined by a piece of socio-politically charged research that he did besides.

Then again there's almost always two sides to every major scientific discovery. Einstein gave us atomic energy but he also gave us atomic weapons (for which I understand he was forever mournful). Shockley gave us something that revolutionized the way we live, work and play but he also inadvertently gave us spam and script kiddies and phishing and 419 scams and and and ... :P

Re:The hell? (2, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715942)

Makes me wonder how many of todays 'geeks' have ever had a single transistor in their hands, much less done anything useful with it.

Anybody who has held a soldering iron and done something digital with single transistors please raise your hand ? Vacuum tubes ? Relays ?

Re:The hell? (2, Interesting)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716004)

Anybody who has held a soldering iron and done something digital with single transistors please raise your hand ? Vacuum tubes ? Relays ?
One hand raised way up here.

Fanciest thing I ever did was a capacitance measuring device. Mostly used op-amps though IIRC there was a single discrete BJT in it as well. It was a really wierd device in the end though. You had to connect the leads of the capacitor and press a start button for the device to start measuring it. The idea was to use a constant current source to charge the capacitor up to a set voltage. So with voltage and charging current being constant, the capacitance value was proportional to time. That's where the transistor came in -- pressing start turned the transistor on, to send a reset pulse to a timer, and also discharged the capacitor. And then getting an accurate reading (relatively speaking) was a question of calibrating the current, voltage, and timer frequency accordingly. A super-fun project, though not very useful in the end :P

Re:The hell? (1)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716006)

Me me me! Long time ago.

In between I worked on organic transistors, normal silicon transistors, high-k devices.. you name it.

Re:The hell? (1)

bvimo (780026) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716036)

The unforgetable smell of solder :)

Has it really been 60 years, it seems like it was only yesterday that I soldered my first transister around the wrong way.

Re:The hell? (2, Funny)

Malevolyn (776946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716226)

It really is unforgettable. Ahhh, the nostalgic feel of burning nostrils...

Re:The hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716378)

Yeeees, all that lead vapour has gone to your head, hey?

Re:The hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21717594)

transistor was burning, probably, not the solder. You know, wire it up the backassward way and the insulation layer next to gate gets zapped.

Re:The hell? (3, Funny)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716072)

Anybody who has held a soldering iron and done something digital with single transistors please raise your hand ?
Why digital? I made analog circuits with single transistors — a radio, and intercom, and some other cool gadgets.

It was all part of an electronics toy set called "Electronic Engineering", where you could build various gadgets by connecting components in predefined ways. Very cool, but unfortunately I was far too young to understand what I was doing. Still it did capture my attention and speed me on the road to geekdom.

Re:The hell? (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716216)

analog is obvious, I'm thinking more along the lines of a digital 4 bit code lock built out of individual transistors. Maybe we'll give rdl a pass too :)

Re:The hell? (0)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716512)

Something digital with component transistors? Hmmm

Re:The hell? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716882)

Two hands up. :)

Re:The hell? (1)

tryptych (1023927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717372)

"Anybody who has held a soldering iron and done something digital with single transistors please raise your hand ?"

The transistor is an analogue device. It is possible to create logic circuits using multiple transistors, but essentially transistors actuate levels, not states. It shows how little you understand about the fundamental principles of electronics.

The transistor is the mainstay of virtually all todays technology, and should not be dismissed as some 60's fad. The are now embedded in their millions into integrated circuits and microprocessors, and without them we would still be torch-wielding peasants.

Re:The hell? (2, Informative)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717830)

Thank you for your amazing display of attitude, your assumption about how little I understand about the fundamental principles of electronics is duly noted and quite possibly totally off base.

The fact that you can use a transistor in two modes, as a switch where you basically saturate the device to get minimum 'on' resistance and maximum switching speed vs an analogue mode where you aim for the linear part in the curve is of course totally obvious, but you can actually just use transistors in the 'digital' only mode, in other words trying to minimize as much as possible the time spent in the analog domain where resistance and heat are king & queen. You'll never avoid that completely which is why a digital device built up out of transistors will generate some heat.

To take it one level further, all electronics devices are analog when you look at large quantities of electrons passing through them, they all exhibit capacitance, resistance and inductance but as soon as you take it down to very small quantities of electrons the properties of most components change quite dramatically. These effects are increased when switching faster.

A true 'digital' domain does not exist, except maybe if we ever get to the holy grails of super conductance and single electron switches, or possibly widespread use of photonic devices for computation.

Until then the 'analog' byproducts of using transistors as switches (heat and maximum switching speed) will be with us.

So, as to your 'the transistor actuates levels, not states' you can take it and run with it, if you use a transistor as a switch you ignore the analog portion as much as you can get away with (mostly as a function of switching time) and when you do analog you try to stay in the non-clipping portion of the output curve.

Re:The hell? (1)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717402)

Im been messing with electronics since a child and now work in the tech industry. In my own humble opinion the transistor is the single most important and influential invention ever devised.

Re:The hell? (0, Offtopic)

gringojack (805753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716282)

Why do some mathamatically challenged individuals insist the the difference between the dates of 1947 and 2007 is 60 years when it is really 59 years.

Re:The hell? (1)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716396)

It's 60. Please elaborate.

Re:The hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716412)

This must the 'new arithmetic' I've heard so much about. :)

Re:The hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716410)

If you can't figure it out, count it... 16/12/48 = 1 year, 16/12/49 = 2 years, 16/12/50 = 3 years, 16/12/51 = 4 years, 16/12/52 = 5 years, 16/12/53 = 6 years, 16/12/54 = 7 years, 16/12/55 = 8 years, 16/12/56 = 9 years, 16/12/57 = 10 years. Keep going if you still don't think that it was 60 years ago today (though you may need to take your shoes off).

(ps. date format = dd/MM/yy)

Re:The hell? (1)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717628)

If you can't figure it out, count it... 16/12/48 = 1 year, 16/12/49 = 2 years, 16/12/50 = 3 years, 16/12/51 = 4 years, 16/12/52 = 5 years, 16/12/53 = 6 years, 16/12/54 = 7 years, 16/12/55 = 8 years, 16/12/56 = 9 years, 16/12/57 = 10 years. Keep going if you still don't think that it was 60 years ago today (though you may need to take your shoes off).

Allow me to simplify starting with your premise to satisfy the nay sayers who'll still insist that it's wrong and that we proles just can't do math;

  • 16/12/57 = 10 years.
  • 16/12/67 = 20 years.
  • 16/12/77 = 30 years.
  • 16/12/87 = 40 years.
  • 16/12/97 = 50 years.
  • 16/12/07 = 60 years.

God bless capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716292)

and deaf people..for transistors ^^

Re:The hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716672)

This post is at least 5 minutes old and no comments?

Either no one cares about the poor transistor, or you've all gotten lives.


We can probably safely rule out the latter possibility.

Tubes rule! (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717398)

I'm old enough to remember the "glow" of the old tube devices. I worked in a television repair shop in the 70's and remember working on these beasts. Many a finger was singed replacing some of these suckers. Many times I would have a old 6U10 tube fail, causing the 6LQ6 output tube to run away and actually glow cherry red hot! An awesome site to watch, but then the pain of waiting for it to cool down enough to pull out and replace. I miss the days of soldering tube connections back together, removing dead mice or other critters who crawl inside those boxes to keep warm in the winter, then get zapped on the high voltage transformers. Ahhhhh.....the good old days ;)

As every audiophile knows... (5, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715820)

a nice, warm-sounding amplifier is not something made of transistors. It's a series of tubes.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (3, Insightful)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715838)

As every electrical engineer knows, the frequency response of a transistor-based amplifier can be modified to mimic virtually anything, including tubes. Especially with new-fangled DSP's of today. . .Seriously though, anyone have a good technical paper about why tubes are better suited for some tasks? The only thing I can come up with is their resilience to voltage spikes, cosmic rays, and ability to dimly illuminate the immediate area, not to mention a way to visually detect dead units :-p

Re:As every audiophile knows... (4, Insightful)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716040)

The only thing I can come up with is their resilience to voltage spikes, cosmic rays...

This is actually related to one of the major reasons: Power Handling. Vacuum tubes are still used for High Power transmitter amplifiers, much greater than 1kw.

Also: The "Virtual Tube" DSP amps do not sound the same, regardless of what a tone-deaf Electrical Engineer says. Musicians are "Audiophiles" in the derogatory sense you intend, although they usually audiophiles in the true sense of being lovers of sound and music. They may not know EE, but that doesn't mean they don't know anything. Skilled musicians DO know music, and there is a reason they prefer tube amps for Guitars, Bass, etc.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716152)

Also: The "Virtual Tube" DSP amps do not sound the same, regardless of what a tone-deaf atheist says. Musicians are "Christians" in the derogatory sense you intend, although they usually christians in the true sense of being lovers of the bible and life. They may not know science, but that doesn't mean they don't know anything. Skilled believers DO know God, and there is a reason they prefer God for education, morality, etc.

Hmmm. I'm confused.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716162)

The "Virtual Tube" DSP amps do not sound the same

It's pay-to-play round here. You have to pay me if you want me to listen to your unqualified opinions on technical matters.

Mod parent flamebait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716222)

The "Virtual Tube" DSP amps do not sound the same.

Of course they don't, because nobody would build something which can amplify sound almost flawlessly, only to degrade the sound with artificial tube amplifier artifacts. The audionuts would still not buy it because it wouldn't glow in the dark and it would have those evil unsmooth bits inside.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716238)

Musicians audiophiles? You have to be kidding.

You mean the way that cram a zillion people into a "live" auditorium and bathe everyone in reverberations and standing waves?

Or do you mean the way they use ultra nonlinear digital filters to amplify the pleasant parts of their voice and attenutate the harshness?

Or do you mean the way they use DSP modeling (www.line6.com) in most all music recorded today that features a distorted guitar?

Sorry, but musicians twist and distort sound like nobody else. Just like a painter, sticking to the primary colors gets boring.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716260)

if musicians can't tell tubes from transistors in double blind tests then I'm afraid that just like 'touch' in pianists it's a load of bull. It's a bit like saying you have a favorite kind of distortion that is unique to some component or other. There is no such thing, frequency response is a measurable quantity, and if two devices perform indistinguishable then they may as well be the same thing as far as the consumer is concerned. That 'tubes' sound different than transistors is taken for granted (but even there you can get awfully close with properly tuned FET end stages and god forbid an output transformer just to get the right kind of destruction (sorry, distortion) of the signal).

There used to be a guy here writing for a so called audiophile magazine that claimed that he could hear the individual stair steps of a CD quality digitized audio stream :)

I think many of these claims are just made to give the claimant some kind of status that they do not deserve. Anybody older than 35 making those claims in all likelihood no longer has the ears required to make such statements anyway, a baby or a dog, that's a different matter, their ears are much better than the average audiophiles, but of course they can't justify the expense (nor do they have the attitude).

Every audiophile knows... (1)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716294)

You've just professed belief in something verging on a Randi challenge in a Slashdot discussion.

Would you like an oxygen-free, 99.999% pure woven copper blindfold and gold-plated cigarette?

Re:Every audiophile knows... (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716636)

Copper? Don't make me laugh. Every audiophool knows that you need silver. And not just any silver, but pure isotope 109 silver (its higher density makes the sound flow better).

Re:As every audiophile knows... (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716308)

Also: The "Virtual Tube" DSP amps do not sound the same, regardless of what a tone-deaf Electrical Engineer says.


That's more likely because the DSP wasn't programmed properly. A transistor *should* in theory be able to replicate any sound within its frequency range. My guess is that the DSPs aren't correctly accounting for distortions caused by the tubes.

On the other hand, "pro sound" tends to shy away from tube amps these days, because transistor amps have gotten good enough not to be noticeably different, and (more importantly), their gear is usually subject to extremely rough handling that a rack full of glass tubes simply couldn't withstand.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716434)

> Also: The "Virtual Tube" DSP amps do not sound the same, regardless of what a tone-deaf Electrical Engineer says

Except in double blind listening tests, where no audiophile has ever guessed at better than the odds of luck which is a "real" tube amp, and which are programmed-to-sound-degraded-like-tubes digital equipment.

Of course, when they 'know' which is which, they harp on the amazing superior quality of the tube equipment, even when the tube gear is really a rigged tube cabinet with digital insides, and the digital-looking equipment is the true tube gear.

Always funny to see, that one.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (3, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716578)

Skilled musicians DO know music, and there is a reason they prefer tube amps for Guitars, Bass, etc.

Yes, and that reason is marketing. Pure, simple, intensive marketing. Lots and lots of marketing being fed to them throughout their life. Fender and Gibson make the best guitars, Marshal makes the best amps and tubes are better than solid state amps. That's what is constantly being fed to them through implicit and explicit marketing campaigns. Yet, no one can rationally explain why are they better than the others, besides the huge price tag that comes attached to those products and the fact that "OMG my guitar hero uses one of those so it must be excellent.

On the other hand, Brian May made his career playing a guitar that was made from wood taken from a fireplace and some bike parts and it sounds better than any 2.5k euro guitars out there. Makes you think. Or at least it should.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716852)

Marshall make both valve and transistor amps. They also sound different both to each other and compared to other amps. As a guitarist, I don't have to explain why they sound different, just to listen and see whether I like that sound or not.
I don't like them myself, and neither do lots of engineers and producers, but you can't deny they have a sound.

Brian May did not build his own amplifiers, his tone is THE classic overdriven Vox sound. The cost of his guitar would be rather high if you wanted to buy one.. completely hand made original instruments are not cheap!

There was once an attempt to build a silicon valve by carefully shaping the actual silicon channels in a FET to give the same characteristics. It turns out to be much harder than it looks....

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

antiMStroll (664213) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717666)

The conspiracy is much older than that. Look at a Stradivarius violin or a Steinway Grand, play-o-phools continue to spend small fortunes on these musical instruments with no scientific justification. The same sound, guitars and amps included, can be had at any corner music or pawn shop for a fraction of the price. The world's going hell.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716972)

Got a double blind test proving that? :)

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716988)

Was this ever proven with a recent side by side transistoror DSP vs. tube listening test using the same speakers? I doubt it. Sounds like a good mythbusters episode.

Same as for turntable people (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717292)

Because they prefer the distortion induced which sound to them more "warm" "sweet" or whatever adjective they want to qualify it, in comparison to digital processing, which has different set of distortion. But in the very end, whether one is better than the other for an everyday use (aka : not 1kw amplification) is a question of what attribute you are looking at. And as far as I know, for convenience/portability and quality of sound reproduction in comparison to the original nothing beat digital (and that is not even counting the new vinyl which are saved from a digitally processed signal to start with...).

Re:As every audiophile knows... (2, Funny)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716104)

Don't forget space heater. Until my landlord gets their No. 2 boiler going again, I need all the help I can get!

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716344)

I'm shocked that my joke was taken seriously. I'm actually a physicist/musician and I like my Gainclone [wikipedia.org] very much.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

TimSSG (1068536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716584)

I was told the difference is the harmonics inherit in each of them. One is even harmonics the other is odd harmonics; so they sound different because of that. Tim S

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

EdipisReks (770738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716804)

Soft clipping is a big advantage, for people who drive their speakers hard.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

EdipisReks (770738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716822)

Also, a properly built tube amplifier gradually increases in THD as the power output leaves the optimum band, where as transistor amplifiers tend to jump from very low distortion to very high distortion, the harder they are driven. Just a generality, but it's one of the reasons people say things like "it's only 50 watts, but it's tube watts."

Re:As every tube technician knows... (1)

murderlegendre (776042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717002)

(...)and ability to dimly illuminate the immediate area, not to mention a way to visually detect dead units

In the world of vacuum tube failure modes, filament burnout isn't very high on the list. One exception is series-string filament setups (most TVs, some radios) where production variances in heaters inevitably cause one or more tubes to experience an excessive voltage drop. Excessive voltage can considerably shorten heater life. Problem is, like series-string Christmas lights - when one heater burns out, the whole string (often every tube in the chassis except for the rectifier) goes dark. Interestingly enough, insufficient heater voltage can also cause a tube to fail, through a process known as cathode stripping

More commonly, tubes fail for other reasons including depletion of the cathode (loss of emission), contamination of the grid(s) (with material from the cathode), gas contamination (offgassing of internal elements, seal failure), shorts between internal elements or fracture of the envelope.

So, just because the light is on, doesn't mean anyone is home

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717812)

Indeed. I won't contribute to the debate of "warmth" in music when everyone in his right mind knows that transistors can do everything tubes can do. :)

      However, there's one place where tubes win out over transistors, as another poster stated: high-voltage amplifiers. Tubes can deal with much more power. More importantly, though (at least sometimes), is that when you use a tube amp, you're almost always stepping down the voltage going to the output. This drastically reduces the chance of oscillations in your amplifying circuitry, and makes things much more stable. When you're dealing with wide bandwidths and high power, this ability to get rid of feedback is very important.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

antiMStroll (664213) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717892)

As an electrical engineer I also know tubes circuits can be designed with flat responses well beyond human audibility (hence, tube radios and transmitters) and that DSP isn't typically used to alter frequency response. Oh, and tube filaments keep glowing long after a tube's gain has collapsed. Some of the advantages you list are correct, supposedly the Soviets until recently used tubes in some critical circuits of their fighter planes. They also continued development in the field long after the Western world went silicon, originating some of the premier examples of the technology. To answer your question, assuming the tube circuit wasn't intentionally designed for audible distortion (by no means necessary), no one knows why, or even agrees on the 'if'.

Re:As every camper knows... (2, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715964)

A nice, warm sleeping bag in a tent that you carried in your backpack is better than any hotel room.


There's a taste for everything, but there's no denying that transistors make sound that's closer to the original, same as a hotel room is closer to the room where you (OK, most people...) sleep at home.


Actually, one of the tube amplifiers biggest shortcomings, its high distortion, is one of the reasons why tubes are still used for a niche application: guitar amplifiers. The distortion caused by the tubes has been incorporated in the sound people expect of guitars, I suppose that's what you mean by "warm-sounding".

Re:As every camper knows... (4, Funny)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716622)

A nice, warm sleeping bag in a tent that you carried in your backpack is better than any hotel room.

Right up until the next morning when you wish you had a hot shower and room service.

Re:As every camper knows... (1)

antiMStroll (664213) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717716)

I have a 45 year old amp on a shelf with distortion figures bettering any scientifically proven metric for audibility at normal listening levels. The distortion argument became invalid with the introduction of the Williamson circuit (a very long time ago.)

Re:As every audiophile knows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716032)

Audiophiles are dumb uber-rich people who spend millions to buy 95% snake oil products and 5% performance improvements only a machine could measure.
Tubes are better than bipolar transistors only when you overdrive them and produce a distorted output wave; in that situation tubes have a gentler and better sounding clipping because of the type of harmonics produced. If you want this kind of behaviour from a transistor amp, you go for mosfets.
Besides guitar amps, that can be perfectly emulated [native-instruments.com] digitally, nowadays tubes have advantages over solid state counterparts only in the power RF amplification niche.

Re:As every audiophile knows... (1)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717816)

a nice, warm-sounding amplifier is not something made of transistors. It's a series of tubes.

This line is getting really old. It's also utter hogwash. The only credence I'll give to it is if you over drive a tube amp its distortion sounds less painful than an over driven solid state amp.

The argument is akin to the nuts who believe records (vinyl) are superior to CDs. Yes, vinyl has a warmth to it but that's essentially the minute hiss of the needle scraping the record surface. In other words the warmth people like about vinyl is a fundamental flaw that's just been adopted as an inherent greatness! Myself, I hate the scratching sound you get from records. Drives me up the wall.

n.b. Digital music studios can input that hiss into the background of a CD and it'll sound just so every single time it's played. Vinyl on the other hand is susceptible to a bent or worn needle, imperfections on the turntable, interruptions in the turntable's speed, warping of the disk, etc.

The problem with audiophiles is they tend to be very old and grew up with tube amps and vinyl records and have so many (tens of) thousands of dollars invested in it they have to justify it to themselves and by extension to everybody around them.

I see the same phenomenon with a friend who owns a plasma TV (one of the new ones that doesn't burn! {chortle} ) as he left a Halo 2 game paused for some time while we ate dinner and resumed playing I was able to clearly read the contents of the pause menu through the next hour or so of game play. That's "improved"?!?

I run my computer on my 60" DLP LCD Sony TV - yes, the task bar is always present at the bottom of the screen! If this were plasma I wouldn't be able to watch TV after a few days' worth of computer use! It's denial. He justifies it by telling me about some study that says plasma is more photo realistic and easier on the eyes for long term viewing blah blah. Sure thing skip. ;)

nah (1)

Exile1 (746114) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715828)

it's all about the nano sized tubes

not entirely (2, Interesting)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715842)

the AP provides the obligatory Moore's-Law-is-ending, no-it-isn't article.

Not really-- if you're AMD, Moore's Law and Murphy's Law are kind of becoming the same thing [infoworld.com] .

Good 'ole days (1)

pkadd (1203286) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715850)

Ah, i wish i was around when the transistor was invented. I, like my father, and my fathers father, am an electronics geek. My grandpa used to be a teacher in the field of electronics, and he told me that the invention of the transistor led to all electronics-teacher were called in for a course on the transistor. I doubt that any device to come can change or suplement so much in a field anymore as the transistor did to electronics.

Re:Good 'ole days (1)

bvimo (780026) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716054)

What about the calculator replacing the slide rule? Or sci-fi uber quality holographic pictures.

Re:Good 'ole days (3, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716324)

I strongly disagree that the invention of the transistor 'led to all electronics', no offense to your grandad.

The transistor is part of electronics, and electronics was quite well developed by the time the transistor came along. There were already steps towards miniturization using vacuum tubes as small as 3/8" across and only about 3/4" high, which was not that much larger than the first transistors. There were plenty of tubes that carried more than one circuit within the glass enclosure, so in effect they would already be 'integrated circuits' of sorts.

The transistors main contribution was the fact that it was 'solid state', no glow current needed (so much less power consumption, which in turn allowed much further miniaturization) and the fact that they could directly switch current at voltages that could drive devices directly instead of through large bulky transformers. All the rest (thin film, the fet and so on) followed from there but are also just 'chapters' in the book of electronics.

The basics are:

- electromechanics (wiring, switches, relays)
- passive components (resistors, capacitors, coils, diodes, etc)
- active components (transistors, tubes, various variations on the transistor)
- integrated circuits (which is a subbranch of active components)

Relays, interestingly are also 'active' components in a sense.

Re:Good 'ole days (2, Insightful)

blincoln (592401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717060)

The transistors main contribution was the fact that it was 'solid state'

I would argue that one of the main contributions of the transistor was that they are not expected to wear out during normal usage. Tubes are not reliable enough to build complicated circuits (e.g. computers) for the mass market out of. Think "one tube failing every two days" like ENIAC, except repeated across millions of desktop PCs.

Re:Good 'ole days (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717668)

the 'wear' that tubes are subject to is twofold, first minute bits of air enter the glass enclosure over time and second (helped by the first) the glowing spiral that produces the electrons that carry the current in a tube wears out just like any other lightbulb (of which the vacuumtube is really just a special purpose cousin).

And yes, the lack of wear is a significant plus for the transistor, in fact a point could probably be made for the development of redundancy and 'hot swap' (tubes run hot to the touch) at a much earlier stage. Not to mention the power bill you'd receive if your average PC was tube powered. You'd likely have to live right next door to a power plant too :)

Re:Good 'ole days (2, Interesting)

DrLudicrous (607375) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717066)

I would say this- the transistor led to virtually all modern electronics. In fact, it is the basis of our modern life and economy. Without it, we could not possibly be where we are today. While tubes may indeed have been the size of the original transistor in 1947/1948, there is no way it could have miniaturized at the rate transistors have- in fact, there is most likely a hard limit to the smallest tube size. Finally, the transistors importance over tubes was that it acted as a miniaturized amplifier. Its true value lay in its ability to facilitate digital (Boolean) logic, which led us to develop computers. The transistor is the single-most important invention of the human race in the last 100 years, and perhaps even the last 200 (though good arguments could be made for penicillin/antibiotics).

rewritten history (4, Insightful)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715854)

The field effect transistor, the device that is relevant today, was invented and patented in 1926 by
Julius Edgar Lilienfeld [wikipedia.org] . Due to his patents many claims by Bell Labs were thrown out.

The device that was invented by Bell Labs in 1947 was a point contact transistor. An inherently fragile device not fit for mass production. The same device was invented in parallel in France by two german Scientists: Welker and Matere see here [wikipedia.org] .

Schockley himself did however invent the bipolar junction transistor a couple of years later. This invention was truly a streak of genius as it is the most complex of all devices.

So, thanks to american corporate giants history was rewritten again.

Re:rewritten history (1)

Djatha (848102) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715914)

Although you are probably right, Bell Labs stimulated the production of and knowledge about transistors all over the world (See: http://www.pbs.org/transistor/background1/events/symposia.html [pbs.org] ) through the transistor symposium in the early 1950s. For Example, Philips was not able to mass produce transistors without till after they gained enough knowledge about the process at this symposium.

Re:rewritten history (1)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715934)


You mean without Teal? But that is for Silicon devices.

ITT Intermetall did manage to mass produce transistors without any license or technology transfer from Bell labs in the late 40ies...

Re:rewritten history (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715916)

So, thanks to american corporate giants history was rewritten again.

If I recall correctly Lilienfeld never actually constructed the transistor. So I think it is safe to say it is the 60th anniversary of the first physically-existent transistor and not the 60th anniversary of the idea of a transistor.

Re:rewritten history (1)

halftrack (454203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716068)

Correct, Lilienfeld had the theory down but couldn't build a working device due to poorly understood and unknown surface effects. The transistor he described was a field effect transistor (FET.) This was also the type of transistor that Bardeen, Brattain and Schockley wanted to build. However, as I understand it, the point-contact transistor (which is a bipolar junction transistor, quite different from a FET) they created in 1947 was an "accident" while trying to build a FET.

Re:rewritten history (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716442)

So, basically, what your saying is, Lilienfeld was a wanna-be patent troll and probably did nothing but delay the invention of the transistor because no-one wanted to step on his patent. That's something to be proud of.

Re:rewritten history (1)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717176)


Mod parent down for being plain stupid.

Lilienfeld did in fact invent the working principle of the transistor. Whether he built one is not known. However he did all the groundlaying work on electrolytic capacitors as they are still used today. Therefore he knew very well how to create extremely thin insulating Al2O3 film that were a necessity for the type of transitor he described in his patents. It does therefore not appear entirely unlikely that he built some of the devices.

The stuff about surface states is mainly important for bulk silicon transistors. Even without solving this problem it is possible to demonstrate amplification as numerous publications on II-VI thin film transistors show.

Re:rewritten history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716404)

Lilienfield did not build any working transistors.

A point-contact transistor is a bipolar transistor.

The parent got +5 insightful for slagging off corporations.

So, thanks to slashdot modermorons, history was written for a third time.

Give me a break (1)

Manchot (847225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717308)

Lilienfeld never made an actual device. In EE and applied physics you don't get credit for inventing something if you were never actually able to make it. Moreover, the reason Lilienfeld wasn't able to make one was because he didn't know the underlying physics. He couldn't have: quantum mechanics wouldn't even be around for a couple of years. So, here we have someone who never made a device and didn't really even understand what was going on theoretically. Oh yeah, and he filed a patent, but never published otherwise. I'd say that he deserves a footnote, but nothing more.

And yeah, I feel a little sympathy for Mataré and Welker. However, the sad fact is that they made their transistor a full two months after Bell Labs. Regardless of whether it was done independently of Bardeen, Shockley, and Brittain, they were second. I'd say that history got it right.

Re:Give me a break (1)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717626)


No quantum mechanic is required to describe field effect transistors in accumulation mode. And that is exactly what Lilienfeld proposed. The only theory that is required is that of space charge limited current, a field Lilienfeld has several publications in.

The Transisor's Significance (5, Interesting)

rm999 (775449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715864)

It's a little hard to put the importance of the transistor into perspective. One way of looking at it is about 3 billion transistors are made worldwide - a second. Imagine how different the world would be if these transistors were still made manually with vacuum tubes (or not made at all.)

While you read this post, about 20 transistors were manufactured for every person in the world.

Re:The Transisor's Significance (3, Funny)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715874)

While you read this post, about 20 transistors were manufactured for every person in the world.

Feel free to send me my 20 whenever you get the chance. What sort of transistors are these? MOSFETs? BJTs? N-channel, P-channel? I like them all.

Re:The Transisor's Significance (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21715960)

Right now I have about 1e15 transistors in the production line for experimental purposes. Where do you want your 20 transistors? We are talking about a spec of dust with a size of a fraction of a cubic micron. You could easily inhale it and sweat it out later on...

Re:The Transisor's Significance (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716402)

Feel free to send me my 20 whenever you get the chance. What sort of transistors are these? MOSFETs? BJTs? N-channel, P-channel? I like them all.


Although I'm sure you're joking, the number of transistors manufactured as discrete components (ie. something big enough to pick up and solder to a circuit board) is insignificantly small compared to the total number manufactured (most of which are "printed" onto an IC).

For instance, a quad-core pentium contains 820 million transistors, which makes me think that the 3-billion per second figure might actually be too small.

Had the transistor not been invented ... (1)

MPAB (1074440) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716090)

... the Internet would be just an array of tubes.

Re:The Transisor's Significance (1)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716750)

It's a little hard to put the importance of the transistor into perspective. One way of looking at it is about 3 billion transistors are made worldwide - a second. Imagine how different the world would be if these transistors were still made manually with vacuum tubes (or not made at all.)

That must be discrete transistors, as a modern day AMD X2 has over 200m per unit. So 3 billion transistors would only be 15 AMD X2 processors.

Imagine a AMD X2 built out of tubes, 200+ million of them. The power bill....

The transistor was an unquestioned major break through in electronics.

Re:The Transisor's Significance (1)

ZeroData00 (223410) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717520)

hmm, You got me thinking. What if we hadn't invented the transistor, or rather a transistor, no FETs, BJTs, etc.
Well, How small could one theoretically make a tube? IE, could we still make ICs. I don't see any reason why the tube couldn't have gotten smaller. It's just a coil and plate in a vacuum. Given today's MEMS technology. I'm guessing that one could with some work fit a few hundred; possible a thousand on a chip of dip 40 form factor. I realize the power consumption would be off the charts and one would need a big heat sink. But not outside the realm of possiblity
 
Stumbles off to write thesis.

history of semiconductor engineering (2, Informative)

hedley (8715) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715870)

might I recommend this book by Bo Lojek. Its a great history of how it all happened with a lot of technical detail. English is not Bo's first language but that is not an issue as its the technical detail and the science that carries this book.

Re:history of semiconductor engineering (1)

rapidweather (567364) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716908)

Let's see... Somewhere in this old box of parts there are:

The Raytheon CK722 [ck722museum.com] and the G E 2N107. [semiconductormuseum.com]

Last post! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21715878)

Headline from February 7, 2496:

Nearly 5 centuries after it was predicted, Moore's Law has finally come to an end. Having nothing to report, Slashdot's servers collapsed in a puff of 2048-qubit floating point reals.

... more on that later. But first, President Bush CXXIII was seen picking his nose in public...

Moore's-Law-is-ending, no-it-isn't article. (2, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21715994)

Bipolar?

Only 60 years? (0, Offtopic)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716058)

From that to this?  Far out, man.

We rock!

Imagine a ... (1)

MPAB (1074440) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716060)

Beowulf cluster of those!

Obligatory quote from 1947 (4, Funny)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716110)

"Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these!"

Re:Obligatory quote from 2007 (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717172)

"Imagine a Beowulf movie made using these!"

Oh 1947? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716230)

Gosh what a coincidence that they invented it in 1947, the same year as the alleged ROSWELL INCIDENT.

They didn't fucking invent that transistor, that shit was recovered alien technology.

I know all you /.'ers are fucking brainwashed by your godless, rationalist educational system so you can't even consider the possibility that - (1) UFO's are a real phenomenon with a non-human intelligence at the wheel, and that (2) we might not really be able to take credit for all our technology but I submit to you that YOU AREN'T AS SMART AS YOU THINK YOU ARE.

It just kills me that we have such a poor understanding of our own space, time, and consciousness yet we brazenly declare that "UFO PEEPLES R TEH STOOPID AND CRAZY"

Go ahead, mod me down, we've got to keep the UFO thing a secret or else we're all going to panic, crack open each other's skulls and feast on the goo inside.

Fuckin' brainwashed.

Re:Oh 1947? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716452)

Daaaaamn AC, we can backwards engineer alien technology so quickly - only within a space of 5 months! It's a wonder we haven't applied that expertise to creating our own electronics!

Oh, wait, it WOULD be easier to make it ourselves than to backwards-engineer a totally foreign idea. Silly me!

Re:Oh 1947? (1)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716464)

You can't fool me! You're just PRETENDING to be a conspiracy theorist!

All the conspiracy theorists on the Web are really GOVERNMENT AGENTS! You're all just PRETENDING to be conspiracy theorists, to distract us so we don't notice your GREAT CONSPIRACY!

Happy Birthday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716254)

Happy Birthday Transistor!

Home of the transistor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716300)

First city to utilize transistors successfully

technocity [myminicity.com]

Who really "invented" transistors. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21716336)

The Roswell UFO Incident involved the recovery of materials near Roswell, New Mexico, USA, on July 7, 1947.

On 16 December 1947, William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain succeeded in building the first practical point-contact transistor at Bell Labs.

Coincidence?

Re:Who really "invented" transistors. (2, Funny)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#21716552)

At UTC 13:16 on Sunday 16 December you write about an event on 16 December 1947... Coincidence?

You write this in 2007 and mention a UFO incident on 7/7 1947... Coincidence?

2 posts about this subject appear on this page, one enumerating 2 points and the other mentioning 2 dates, and these posts appear 22 minutes apart... Coincidence?

I think not. Clearly this can't be coincidence. Clearly you're an alien pretending to be a conspiracy theorist.
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