Date: 21 Aug 2022
If you ever wanted to be part of an organization which can offer insane freedom and a huge financial support to build whatever you want, I bet you don’t have any other dream than joining such organization. Well, one such organizations (I highly doubt if a second one ever existed… maybe PARC, R&D of Xerox) was Bell Laboratories (Bell Labs), the R&D division of AT&T, once upon a time, the only and largest telephone service company in the US.
Many of the important research breakthroughs happened in this laboratory. Masters and PhD scholars from renowned universities in the US who went to be part of Bell Labs, were definitely part of some important inventions in the world. Many major inventions like Unix, C , C++ programming languages, Information theory, Lasers, SCCS (the first version control system – ancestor of Git, maybe) etc.. and of course the heart of every device in this world (and outer space), the transistor, all came from this same place. Here is an image which shows the timeline of Bell labs with its inventions.
The reason behind funding and hosting such major inventions is because of AT&T’s then market share. During that time, AT&T was the monopoly in the telephone service market. Their improvements in the technology made them to provide telephone connections across the entire America, which then was really a big deal. Transistor played an important role for their growth in business too. Earlier Vacuum tubes were used which would easily get burnt and need a lot of replacements, hence cost. During that time, a team was formed with a project leader whose job is to find a better alternative for the vacuum tube which made them to invent the transistor.
It would be fun to watch the documentary of the transistor invention rather than reading about it on this blog. It is filled with a lot of surprises, ego, fear, pride and fame. It is not just about the technical parts of the transistor but also about the people involved.
References to checkout –
- Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age - link
- Crystal Fire – The Invention of the Transistor & the Birth of the Information Age - link
- Transistor history video - link