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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor | Roots of the Processor: Digital Logic and the Semiconductor ]

The Transistor: A Solid State Digital Switch

One of the key inventions in the history of electronics, and in fact one of the most important inventions ever period, was the transistor. It was invented by Bell Laboratories in 1948. In short, a transistor is a device that conducts a variable amount of electricity through it, depending on how much electricity is input to it. In other words, it is a digital switch. However, unlike the vacuum tube, it is solid state. This means that it doesn't change its physical form as it switches. There are no moving parts in a transistor.

The advantages of the transistor over the vacuum tube were enormous. Compared to the old technology, transistors were much smaller, faster, and cheaper to manufacture. They were also far more reliable and used much less power. The transistor is what started the evolution of the modern computer industry in motion.

Next: Semiconductors and The Integrated Circuit


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