SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.
In “The First Transistor and How it Worked,” Glenn Zorpette dives deep into how the point-contact transistor came to be. Then, in “The Ultimate Transistor Timeline,” Stephen Cass lays out the device’s evolution, from the flurry of successors to the point-contact transistor to the complex devices in today’s laboratories that might one day go commercial. The transistor would never have become so useful and so ubiquitous if the semiconductor industry had not succeeded in making it small and cheap. We try to give you a sense of that scale in “The State of the Transistor.”