Today we celebrate a special 90th anniversary. In 1926 the first US patent was filed for one of the most fundamental building blocks of electronics engineering – the transistor.
It was Julius Edgar Lilienfeld who first came up with the idea of what a transistor might be. A physicist who went on to become an electronics engineer, Lilienfeld was Austro-Hungarian by birth but later became a US citizen. When he filed the US patent in 1926 it was referred to as a field-effect transistor (FET).
It took until 1947 for the transistor to actually become a reality. American physicists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley were responsible for that (see photo left).
They worked as a team at the AT&T Bell Laboratories in the United States. In 1956 they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their contribution to science.
The invention of the transistor was without doubt the catalyst for the rapid expansion of the field of electronics. Everything from small radios to calculators and computers owe their development to that one invention.
Transistor Legacy: The Crystal Radio
Here at Advanced Perimeter Systems, we have our own debt of gratitude to the transistor. Our Technical Director Andy Moon has led our security system Research and Development Team for 30 years and has been a key contributor to our company’s international success and the reputation we enjoy today. However, were it not for the transistor, Andy’s choice of vocation might have been entirely different. It’s an interesting story and one which he has kindly allowed us to share with readers of this article.
At the age of 14, Andy received an exciting Christmas present – an electronics kit. It introduced him to making circuits and using photocells and transistors and his interest in the subject gained further momentum when he chanced upon a book.
The book described how to build a crystal radio using a cats whisker diode. It was the first item he ever built and became the catalyst for a lifelong passion for electronics.
Andy readily recalls the excitement of building the crystal radio set, particularly his improvised way of creating a coil …
“To make the radio work I had to make a coil. I looked around for something I could use and decided my mother’s sweeping brush could provide the answer. So I cut off the top 6″ of the brush and wrapped wire around it to make the necessary coil. It was perfect. The radio worked!”
The crystal radio is still popular today and there is plenty of advice online for anyone who wants to try their hand at building one. This article on building a crystal radio courtesy of the Open University is a great starting place!