IT giants celebrate birth of the transistor

IT giants celebrate birth of the transistor

Industry reflects on 60th anniversary of invention

The transistor will officially turn 60 next week, and the world's largest technology firms are pausing to celebrate an invention which many credit as the creator of Silicon Valley.

Bell Labs researchers Bill Shockley, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen demonstrated the first transistor on 23 December 1947.

The device allowed computer scientists to replace vacuum tubes in circuit designs, making computers smaller, cheaper and more reliable.

All three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1956 for their achievement, which is regarded as one of the most important inventions of the 20th century.

A Bell Labs spokesperson explained that successful experiments were conducted throughout December 1947, leading some to place earlier dates on the invention. IBM and Intel, for example, place the transistor's birth on 16 December.

However, the transistor was successfully tested for the first time on 23 December and is the date which Bell Labs officially recognises.

The invention spawned an entirely new industry in the field of electronics. Hundreds of new computing companies emerged along the valley connecting the cities of San Francisco and San Jose, leading to the Silicon Valley nickname.

One of those companies was Intel. The chipmaker was founded 20 years after the birth of the transistor, and became the largest CPU vendor in the world.

"The transistor has changed the world, the way we work, the way we learn and the way we play," said Intel president and chief executive Paul Otellini. "It is probably the best friend we have."