Branding “The Transistor”

“The transistor was probably the most important invention of the 20th Century, and the story behind the invention is one of clashing egos and top secret research….”


[Shockley’s] device, the junction (sandwich) transistor, was developed in a burst of creativity and anger, mostly in a hotel room in Chicago.

Branding the transistor was a thing:

Bell Labs decided to unveil the invention on June 30, 1948. With the help of engineer John Pierce, who wrote science fiction in his spare time, Bell Labs settled on the name “transistor“– combining the ideas of “trans-resistance” with the names of other devices like thermistors. 

via PBS

I read further and found Sony:

In the 1950s and 1960s, most U.S. companies chose to focus their attentions on the military market in producing transistor products. That left the door wide open for Japanese engineers like Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, who founded a new company named Sony Electronics that mass-produced tiny transistorized radios. Bell Labs’ President Emeritus Ian Ross said that part of their success lay in developing the ability to quickly mass-produce transistors.


Gordon Moore’s insights on Shockley are kind of awesome:

“Shockley had phenomenal physical intuition. He really had just a feeling for the way the physics worked in these devices. I had a colleague that said he thought Shockley could see electrons.


And Shockley in general is an example of what happens when you go “Kyloboss.”

And his point on the economic impact of the transistor was prescient (and thus “Moore’s Law” makes a bunch of sense):

“The real implication of this was the decrease in cost of electronics. Where single transistors had sold for a few dollars after I got into the business, now for a few dollars you can buy sixteen million bits of D-RAM, which has over sixteen million transistors on it. So here’s a sixteen million-to-one decrease in the cost of the transistor, with all the interconnections and things thrown in free. No other technology I can identify has had an equivalent decrease in the cost of its product.”


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