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The Transistor: a 1953 documentary, anticipating its coming impact on technology

The Transistor: a 1953 documentary, anticipating its coming impact on technology


This picture is about the transistor. There are three transistors here in this
collection of small electronic parts: the original point contact type, the junction type, and the photo
transistor. And here’s a more complex type of
transistor. This is called the junction tetrode. These tiny transistors are destined to
play a big part in our electronic age. They will make possible smaller more
compact electronic devices, and will need less maintenance and have a
longer life. But to grasp fully the importance of these new members of the electronic family, let’s recall the wonders made possible by
the high vacuum tube. The common radio tube. The roots of the
electronic age reach back into the early years of our
century. In 1907 Dr. Lee de Forest discovered that
a grid of fine wire placed between a filament and a metal plate
in a vacuum tube could control the flow of electrons between the filament and plate and the tube could be made to amplify as well
as detect the electrical wave. He called this amplifying tube an Audion. Weak signals applied to the import or
grid of the Audion caused similar and much
stronger signals to flow from the plate or output. A few years later two scientists,
Dr. Arnold of Bell Telephone Laboratories and Dr. Langmuir of General Electric. working independently,
found that by pumping out the Audion tube to create a very high vacuum, they obtained
greater fidelity and stability. Here’s one of the first high
vacuum tubes that started us on the way to the wonders of
our electronic age. By 1915 telephone research physicists and
engineers had succeeded in developing methods of manufacturing a vacuum tube with sufficiently uniform characteristics
so that hundreds of them were installed as amplifiers thus making possible the first
telephone line between New York and San Francisco. And 3,000 mile transcontinental
telephone calls became a reality. The same year 1915 at Arlington, Virginia telephone
engineers hooked together 500 vacum tubes to generate enough radio power to send the
human voice across the Atlantic for the first time in history. Words spoken into a radio telephone transmitter at Arlington were heard by engineers listening at
the Eiffel Tower in Paris and also at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 1920 brought the beginning of radio
broadcasting when a vacuum tube radio receiver was a real luxury. Then the next 10 years gave us talking
motion pictures, trans-oceanic radio telephone servicev television demonstrations, and ship to
shore telephony. With our electronic age in full swing
the coaxial cable, the cathode ray tube, the iconoscope and the image orthocon, aided by hundreds of more conventional
vacuum tubes, gave us television, radar for war, radar for peace. And then microwave radio relay to speed hundreds of telephone calls as
well as television programs from coast to coast. The heart of all these
electronic systems has been the vacuum tube. But the Bell Telephone Laboratories have
added an entirely new and different heart to modern communication systems. The transistor. Operating on a new and
different principle arising from basic research on solid
substances and how the electrons inside them behave. How
did it all come about? Well, Doctors Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain, and their associates at the Bell
Telephone Laboratories, were working on a problem in pure research, investigating the surface properties
of germanium, a substance known to be a semiconductor of electricity. Their studies suggested a way to amplify
an electric current within a solid without a vacuum or a heating element. And
after months of calculations, experiments, tests, the transistor was born. The
transistor – a new name, a new device that can do many
of the jobs done by the vacuum tube, and many the tube can’t do. Let’s see how
the transistor and tube measure up. First off, the vacuum tube is power hungry. While a tube like this generally demands a watt or more of electricity a millionth of a watt is enough for the transistor. Even a makeshift battery of moist blotting
paper wrapped around a coin can power transistor. [Electronic signal tone] The vacuum tube gets pretty hot. Sometimes a little too hot. That’s why in
complex devices the tubes must be spaced far enough apart for
proper ventilation. Since transistors remain cool they can be crowded together in a small
space. In size, reliability and ruggedness too, the tiny
transistor has many advantages. And research goes on to make it still more
useful. Many new and improved types of
transistors are probably early models, but transistors are no longer just an
experiment. Here they are being produced at the
Allentown, Pennsylvania plant of Western Electric, the manufacturing and
supply unit of the Bell System. Different types for different purposes. The Bell Telephone people have lots of
jobs lined up for them jobs based on the transistor’s ability to
amplify speech sounds in this way: [Man demonstrating, voice low] “This is how my voice would sound over a 75 mile
telephone line that has no amplifying device. [Voice louder] Now with a transistor amplifier in the line, my voice is amplified so that you can hear me
distinctly.” This, for example, will mean that in isolated
farmhouses far from central exchanges the transistor, right in the telephone,
will make it easier for the farmer to hear and be heard on his rural telephone. And transistors can replace many of the
vacuum tubes used in providing long distance telephone service. Because they are so tiny transistors have made it possible to miniaturize many types of electronic equipment This equipment requires less space and will
cost less to maintain. Transistors may also be used in
multi-channel telephony which increases the number of calls that
can be carried at the same time along telephone lines. When you dial direct from your town to a distant city, transistors in this
route selector may be helping to mark out the pathway
along which your call will go. Transistors may some day go under the
sea, built right into underwater telephone
cables. But transistors go well with lots of other industries too. Many manufacturers have been licensed to
produce transistors and devise new applications. Through their
efforts you may be able to get music with a flick of your wrist from the so-called Dick Tracy radio. And with a portable television set you may be able to enjoy video
entertainment anywhere you go. For the military the transistor opens up
fantastic possibilities, most of them in too early a stage of
development to be talked about. Transistors will take
their place in the complex calculating machines that have often been called electronic brains,
because they enable man to save days, month, even years in solving
mathematical problems. Of course we cannot build a calculating machine as flexible
as the human brain, but even a man-made computer designed to do hundreds of brain-like
calculating jobs might need an Empire State Building to
house it and a Niagara Falls to power and cool it, if vacuum tubes were used in its
construction. Substituting transistors for tubes, such a versatile machine could fit into
a good-sized room, and power and cooling needs would be relatively
low. With the transistor man has drawn far toward matching some of the capacity
of the human brain. He has done it with imagination, with the inventiveness and teamwork of
the Bell telephone scientists who are looking forward to the age just beyond the Age of Electronics.

100 comments on “The Transistor: a 1953 documentary, anticipating its coming impact on technology

  1. "Following total atomic annihilation, the rebuilding of this great nation of ours may fall to you."

  2. And yet, it wasn't until the early 2000s that vacuum tube TVs disappeared, and practical replacements for the vacuum tubes in microwave ovens appeared only within the past few years.

  3. Grandparents now: Where are the buttons?
    Me: No grandpa, the phone has no buttons now, only touch-screen.
    Me within 50 years: "Where's the touchscreen?"
    Grandson: "No grandpa, there is no screen now, only an hologram"

  4. It's amazing how far we've come in so short a time. Watch how modern integrated circuits are manufactured: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvluuAIiA50

  5. Well I'm glad you did not use a robotic voice Like many YouTube channels do but what is with that Disney type music your playing the background?

  6. Fascinating video. Love seeing stuff about how amazing of an advancement the transistor was over vacuum tubes, and the many benefits they bring. Love seeing how limited computers were at the time of vacuum tubes, and here I am streaming this video from the internet onto a device with more computing power than what helped us get to the moon. Really under appreciated bit of history.

  7. “…of course, we cannot build a calculating machine as advanced as the human mind, but” …if only they knew how close we are.

  8. The transistor is marvelous…and yet rarely do we stop and think how amazing it is that every year we DOUBLE the number of them that can fit on a microprocessor. And when Moores Law runs out, many experts predict we will just find a new technology to keep it going.

  9. We got our first pocket transistor radios for Christmas in 1959, even with a single earphone, a Sears Silvertone.

  10. This video is incorrect on this:
    Lee De Forest did not invent the vacuum tube. He bought it and its proprietary assets. He was the first to exploit its properties for profit and impose his proprietary patents whenever he could.
    -Sir John Ambrose Fleming FRS was an English electrical engineer and physicist who invented the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube, designed the radio transmitter with which the first transatlantic radio transmission was made, and also established the right-hand rule used in physics.
    Lee De Forest did not invent the radio or the thermionic tube but his patents were implied in its first uses.
    -E. Howard Armstrong invented the oscillator feedback system to boost signal strength to make radio useful. He coined the phrase "superheterodyne" receiver after it. It was another feature of the era De Forest tried to claim. Armstrong was the father of fm radio.

  11. It made smaller, more compact electronics. yes. But also a lot more vulnerable to electrostatic charges and especially EMPs. Valves / vacuum tubes are due to their nature resistant to such downsides.

  12. The evoluiton of imagination fascinated me. And I laughed when I heard the "of course we cannot build a calculating machine as flexible as the human brain…" sentence.

  13. 1953, when you couldn't make a documentary about electronics without including just a little bit of blackface. 3:00

  14. This is the most unintentionally hysterical thing I’ve seen in a good long time! 😂🤣😂🤣

  15. I am watching this to take a break from designing a vacuum tube guitar amplifier in 2019… Life sure is weird…

  16. Watching a transistor documentary while using a computer made of transistors, listening to it with an amplifier made of transistors

  17. The basis of the transistor was found doing "basic reasearch". Scientists were "working on a problem in pure research". For far too long I have being hearing politicians, bureaucrats, and various bean-counters criticizing the "wasting" of money on pure research which they think could be better spent on "practical" research.

  18. I remember my father bought a portable radio with 7 transistors proudly displayed as a selling logo. Later we have like 23 transistors radio with many phony transistors connected to no where. The 7 transistor radio was a "National" brand, now Panasonic.

  19. How many of us can construct these 50s chips? Boasting on youtube about smartphones is something else altogether.

  20. "enjo video enetertainment" they thought abot the pictiure,teh Tv..teh videos(video tape recorders) were flat/house-sized then

  21. прекрасно описали грядущее будущее, которое открыло изобретение транзистора. Если б они тогда знали на сколько разовьется радиоэлектроника

  22. Aliens crash at Roswell 1947.
    1948 someone figures out how to make an amplifier out of sand.
    Just a coincidence.
    Move along folks.
    Nothing to see here.

  23. Silly con… tricks are for kids. German I um, think lost but Still se mi con ductors because of a virus in the binary

  24. He says nineteen-seven without the oh in the middle for 1907? First time I hear something like this.

  25. Can't believe this was only 14 years before I was born. I grew up with a natural curiosity of electronics in the 70s and went on to be an electrical engineer. What an exciting era to grow up in

  26. by 2020 an electronic calculator will be smaller than your fridge and only consume 122 Watts

  27. Muy bueno! Sin saber inglés te hace aprender Igual. Ahora que innovadores y que inteligentes eran los nombres y mujeres de esa época. Ahora son todos monos que de apoco vamos involucionando usando bases y teorías de esas épocas y más de 500 años .

  28. >Of course we cannot build a calculation machine as flexible as the human brain, but even a man-made computer desigend to do hundreds of brain-like calculation jobs might need an Empire State Building to house it and a Niagara Falls to power and cool it, if vaccum tubes were used in its construction.

    The same thing is likely to happen now between quantum computers and supercomputers.

    Thank you for releasing a very interesting historical film. I think that transistor is a wonderful invention that remains in human history.

  29. SAD WE ARE NO LONGER EDUCATED THIS WAY PEOPLE WANT FAME NOT EDUCATION IN THIS NEW AGE: THE DUMB ASS AGE THE AGE WHERE PEOPLE LOOK FOR STUFF THAT S COMPLETELY STUPID AND IT MAKES YOU POPULAR FOR SOME REASON

  30. surprisingly, a much better time in the U.S. … all the idiotic things we could have avoided back then — which now look like 'doomed futures' …

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