Bell was finally able to put Shockley's junction transistor mass production in 1952, and afterwards licensed the design to other firms too, most notably a new, small Japanese company called Sony. Two years later, Bell replaced the germanium used in its transistors with silicon.
Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain won the Nobel Prize for Physics "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect" in 1956, almost two years after their work resulted in the release of the first transistor radio.
From Bell to Nobel: Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain
These early transistors were used primarily to amplify an analog signal, which they were better able to achieve - certainly in a much smaller space - than circuits based on thermionic valves. Only much later, after Jack Kilby (1923-2005) and Robert Noyce (1927-1990) combined transistors into the first integrated circuit chip, in 1958, did the potential in the transistor's ability to operate as a switch begin to be realised.
Transistors operating as current switches could be combined to form logic gates, and the basic foundations of modern digital circuitry were born. Put a number of these gates together into an integrated circuit and you have the basis for a computer. Put enough of them together and you have a microprocessor, which Intel released in 1971 as the 2300-transistor 4004.
Intel's 4004: 2300 transistors on board
These days, processors contain hundreds of millions of transistors, making up their maths units, control systems and on-board memory banks.
The vacuum tube was invented and patent-applied a year before de Forest by an Austrian gentleman in Vienna. History repeating ...
We're all 9 months older today...
as Reg readers decide to redefine "birth" as "conception".
The birth of trasistor was properly dated to the first successful construction of the device, not to the first conception of the idea.
Transistor approaches 100 years old ?
Couple of points here:
I have just looked at Lilienfeld's 1930 transistor patent, applied for in 1926, US1745175 which is available on line from the EPO ep.espacenet.com . It even gives a circuit diagram for a transistor radio. The transistor itself seems to be a FET rather than an NPN junction transistor.
There is an even earlier transistor patent dating from 1911, which was cited by the British patent office when they were examining the Schockley / Bell labs case. That one is a three terminal point contact device. Unfortunately I do not remember the number or the inventor. Does anyone else have details?
Switch me on, baby
I understood that Bell were only really interested in the transformer as a switch initially. As a result, they sold the rights for amplifier use to the nascent Sony for a handful of beans. Shortly afterwards Sony produced the first all-transistor radio and then the all-transistor television ...
We should also remember vacuum tubes
Which are (almost) 100 years old as well. Any way you can amplify a signal works for me. If I were doing it from scratch and knowing about vacuum tubes AND transistors, I'd pick vacuum tubes as they would be easier to make. Yes, hotter, and bulkier, but easier to make.
Look I'm the USA, and we call them vacuum tubes here, not "valves".
I don't have the exact date of Lee DeForest's invention with me at the moment so the 100 year difference may be off by a couple either way.