The revolution I’m talking about is the Transistor Revolution. Today computers, phones, and cameras rely on these transistors, and the chips that hold billions of them. These chips have wormed their way into everything from cars to washing machines. Yet the creation of the transistor is not yet a century old.
From November 17, 1947 to December 23, 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at AT&T’s Bell Labs in the United States, performed experiments and observed that when two gold point contacts were applied to a crystal of germanium, a signal was produced with the output power greater than the input. This was the first point-contact transistor. They won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956 for this invention.
John Bardeen (May 23, 1908 – January 30, 1991) was the only person to win the Nobel Prize in Physics twice. He won it again for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory. He must have been an exceptional man. After he left Bell Labs for the University of Illinois, his first Ph.D. student was Nick Holonyak (1954), the inventor of the first LED in 1962.
He was an active professor at Illinois from 1951 to 1975 and then became Professor Emeritus. Bardeen continued his research throughout the 1980s, and published articles less than a year before he died at the age of eighty-three.
If you had him for a neighbor, you might not have realized what he did for a living. Bardeen was unassuming. Many of his neighbors of forty years didn’t know about his accomplishments.
The transistor started to replace vacuum tubes in the late 50’s and the early 60’s. One of the first popular devices was the portable radio. Think about it. This was the first portable device for music listening. It paved the way for the Walkman of the eighties and today’s MP3 players.
The revolution continues. Google glasses, I-watches, and in 2015 perhaps virtual reality headsets.
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