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Thread: Who really invented the transistor?

  1. #1 Who really invented the transistor? 
    Forum Freshman redrooster's Avatar
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    I was amazed to only recently find that Shockley, Bardeen and B....? whatshisname didn't invent the transistor after all. In fact a Dr Julius Lilienfeld patented the (FET) field effect transistor way back in 1933,U.S. Patent# 1,900,018 with previous Canadian patents dating from 1925/26. There had been a progression of peoples discoveries leading up to this that Bell labs copied.The only credit they should get is that they commercialized the transistor. It seems that this is the way history is written, it nearly always goes down that the first one to commercialize a product is deemed to have invented it. Look at Bell,I dont think he invented much of anything, he was very good at taking other peoples inventions, improving them and commercializing and marketing them.


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    Quote Originally Posted by redrooster View Post
    I was amazed to only recently find that Shockley, Bardeen and B....? whatshisname didn't invent the transistor after all. In fact a Dr Julius Lilienfeld patented the (FET) field effect transistor way back in 1933,U.S. Patent# 1,900,018 with previous Canadian patents dating from 1925/26. There had been a progression of peoples discoveries leading up to this that Bell labs copied.The only credit they should get is that they commercialized the transistor. It seems that this is the way history is written, it nearly always goes down that the first one to commercialize a product is deemed to have invented it. Look at Bell,I dont think he invented much of anything, he was very good at taking other peoples inventions, improving them and commercializing and marketing them.
    There's a wonderful book, "Crystal Fire," that does a great job of tracing this history. Lilienfeld got a patent on something that is often mistakenly called a FET, but take a look at the actual patent. Lilienfeld was actually proposing a true vacuum-tube analog. It's not a FET, but the superficial similarity of the patent drawing to modern FETs confuses some people.

    Lilienfeld's patent, though, was strong enough to force Shockley's name off Bell Labs' first transistor patent. That caused the egotistical Shockley to burn the midnight oil and invent the first practical transistor (Bardeen and Brattain's "point-contact" device was a dead end, but definitely distinct in its operating principles from Lilienfeld's; Shockley's "junction" transistor was even more different, and thus patentable).

    Crystal Fire's authors make it plain that the trio did invent the transistor -- more than one, in fact. Lilienfeld's never would have worked. He certainly never built one (and evidently never tried to).


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    And today, that tiny, marvelous, mysterious little "semiconductor device" is largely relegated to the obsolete scrap heap (where it resides with carburetors).
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    Quote Originally Posted by tk421 View Post
    Lilienfeld's never would have worked. He certainly never built one
    Well there you go... I hardly think that having a patent qualifies one as being the inventor if the working device has never been built.
    There are no paradoxes in relativity, just people's misunderstandings of it.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    And today, that tiny, marvelous, mysterious little "semiconductor device" is largely relegated to the obsolete scrap heap (where it resides with carburetors).
    Only as a discrete device; there are still millions of them in your computer...
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    And today, that tiny, marvelous, mysterious little "semiconductor device" is largely relegated to the obsolete scrap heap (where it resides with carburetors).
    Only as a discrete device; there are still millions of them in your computer...
    I'm fairly sure that most amplifiers still use discrete transistors for the power output stage.
    There are no paradoxes in relativity, just people's misunderstandings of it.
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    Forum Freshman redrooster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tk421 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by redrooster View Post
    I was amazed to only recently find that Shockley, Bardeen and B....? whatshisname didn't invent the transistor after all. In fact a Dr Julius Lilienfeld patented the (FET) field effect transistor way back in 1933,U.S. Patent# 1,900,018 with previous Canadian patents dating from 1925/26. There had been a progression of peoples discoveries leading up to this that Bell labs copied.The only credit they should get is that they commercialized the transistor. It seems that this is the way history is written, it nearly always goes down that the first one to commercialize a product is deemed to have invented it. Look at Bell,I dont think he invented much of anything, he was very good at taking other peoples inventions, improving them and commercializing and marketing them.
    There's a wonderful book, "Crystal Fire," that does a great job of tracing this history. Lilienfeld got a patent on something that is often mistakenly called a FET, but take a look at the actual patent. Lilienfeld was actually proposing a true vacuum-tube analog. It's not a FET, but the superficial similarity of the patent drawing to modern FETs confuses some people.

    Lilienfeld's patent, though, was strong enough to force Shockley's name off Bell Labs' first transistor patent. That caused the egotistical Shockley to burn the midnight oil and invent the first practical transistor (Bardeen and Brattain's "point-contact" device was a dead end, but definitely distinct in its operating principles from Lilienfeld's; Shockley's "junction" transistor was even more different, and thus patentable).

    Crystal Fire's authors make it plain that the trio did invent the transistor -- more than one, in fact. Lilienfeld's never would have worked. He certainly never built one (and evidently never tried to).
    Apparently he did have a solid state working model that he demonstrated on numerous occasions.(tubeless radio receiver) I suppose its the view of history you subscribe to,personally I think its been a work in progress since the 1800s until now.
    Last edited by redrooster; August 10th, 2013 at 01:42 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by redrooster View Post
    Apparently he did have a solid state working model that he demonstrated on numerous occasions.(tubeless radio receiver) I suppose its the view of history you subscribe to,personally I think its been a work in progress since the 1800s until now.
    Do you have a reference for this claim? I'm pretty sure that such a claim is false, for two reasons: One, the materials system he was working with -- copper compounds -- are very messy. Even today, we cannot make transistors out of such materials. Two, the device structure he proposed required interposing a grid into the solid body of said difficult material. To work, the grid's dimensions would have to be smaller than the extent of the space charge layer (microns and below). There was no manufacturing technology available to Lilienfeld that could have made this possible at the time. Indeed, Shockley independently came up with the same idea. Even in a better materials system (crystalline germanium), with the resources of Bell Labs to support him, he and his team failed. That failure is what led Shockley's team to invent the transistor.

    Finally, of course every invention builds on the work that precedes it, but you seem to be claiming something stronger, that there was a directed effort toward the transistor stemming from the 1800s. If so that's more of a stretch than any historian would make. Asymmetrical conduction in semiconductors wasn't recognized until the 1870s (google Ferdinand Braun) "Semiconductors" weren't recognized as a separate materials category until after Lilienfeld's patent. The necessary physics wasn't understood until after WWII, and suitable materials really didn't become available until the work by Shockley's team.

    I highly recommend reading Crystal Fire. The authors are physicists and careful scientists, and apply the scientific method to this well-written work. You will find there very little documentary support for your assertions. The version of history to which I "subscribe" is that which is best documented by the evidence.
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    If you google (inventor of transistor) you will see what I am referring to.you must realize that you cant get a balanced view by reading and quoting from one book surely? Dr Julius Lilienfelds 1933 patent was for a (Device for controlling electric current)amplifying,rectifying,ect... the patent shows what looks like the structure of a modern day transistor that does the job of a modern transistor and he used modern manufacturing techniques like metal sputtering for extremely thin coatings. A fact is a fact that he patented a transistor in 1933. Ive tried to upload the patent but I don't think it worked, its only 700kb pdf? Look it up U.S.patent 1,900,018. P.S. I could write a book myself with a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo and say that it I who actually invented the transistor but then I would be biased wouldn't I? Pun intended LOL.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by redrooster View Post
    If you google (inventor of transistor) you will see what I am referring to.you must realize that you cant get a balanced view by reading and quoting from one book surely?
    Gosh, random search results or a well-researched book?

    So I tried your Google search and the first non-Shockley result was a suggestion that the technology was recovered from a UFO at Roswell. (Although, to be fair, it does go on to mention all the other people who may have had a role or done similar work, including Lilienfield.)

    Ive tried to upload the patent but I don't think it worked, its only 700kb pdf?
    Here: Patent US1900018 - LILIENFELD - Google Patents

    As far as I can tell from the description there, it could never have worked in practice. If someone suggests a partial and non-functioning idea, can they really be called the inventor?

    if, before Edison, someone had said, "I'm sure we could have a glass sphere that will emit light when powered by electricity (but I have no idea how to make it work)" would you call them the inventor of the light bulb? Would you really call Hero of Alexandria the inventor of the steam engine?
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by redrooster View Post
    If you google (inventor of transistor) you will see what I am referring to.you must realize that you cant get a balanced view by reading and quoting from one book surely?
    Ah, the old "balanced view" argument. You must be aware that not all views are of equal validity. I've given you scientific and technological reasons why Lilienfeld could not have built a device as you claim. Think about your specious "one book" argument for a moment. Which would you prefer your doctor to rely on to cure a tumor: "One book" on the subject, written by experts who had spent years researching the subject, or unsourced opinions of random folks found in a random google search?

    In science, one must be very wary of confirmation bias. Don't just look for someone who agrees with your bias. You must vet the source and quality of the information, and go where the evidence leads. In your eagerness to promote a certain idea ("Evil Bell Labs guys stole brilliant idea of lone inventor"), you have neglected to perform a careful assessment of the actual history.

    Dr Julius Lilienfelds 1933 patent was for a (Device for controlling electric current)amplifying,rectifying,ect... the patent shows what looks like the structure of a modern day transistor
    I've already addressed this point in my very first post. Yes, superficially it "looks like" a FET. But it is not. That you fail to understand this key point tells me that you don't know how a transistor works. Worse, you don't know that you don't know. Thus, you are too quick to accept ignorant assertions of others who don't know.

    that does the job of a modern transistor and he used modern manufacturing techniques like metal sputtering for extremely thin coatings.
    Again, cite your sources. Mere assertions don't count, especially when those assertions reveal a profound ignorance of transistor physics. Merely sputtering thin coatings would not do the job. It doesn't matter if you can sputter nanometer-thin coatings. The surface states will kill you. The role of surface states in preventing modulation of potential barriers was not appreciated until the Bell Labs team tried -- and failed -- to make a true FET. Bardeen figured out the problem, and then proposed a solution.

    A fact is a fact that he patented a transistor in 1933.
    Now you're somewhat disingenuously shifting the argument. The argument here has never been about whether he got a patent. It's always been about your claims that he built a working device.

    Ive tried to upload the patent but I don't think it worked, its only 700kb pdf? Look it up U.S.patent 1,900,018.
    No need to upload it. I'm very familiar with Lilienfeld's work, not only in his early ideas on solid-state amplifiers, but with his more enduring contributions in the area of electrolytics.

    P.S. I could write a book myself with a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo and say that it I who actually invented the transistor but then I would be biased wouldn't I? Pun intended LOL.
    Your book would fail to convince those with subject-matter knowledge. You continue to confuse "number of words" with "quality of words."

    Now, if you want to promote someone with a legitimate prior claim to solid-state amplification, you could cite any number of people. There was a guy in the USSR in the 1920s who made a two-terminal solid-state device (his name was Oleg Lossew/Lossev/Losev). And more relevantly, there was the team of Pohl and Hilsch in the late 1930s who demonstrated amplification in salt, with a reliance on the same principles that underlie modern FETs. The crude manufacturing methods of the day prevented useful bandwidth, but Pohl and Hilsch pointed the way.

    Lilienfeld was a pioneer and a visionary. But he did not build a transistor. And he certainly did not build the device in his patent.
    Last edited by tk421; August 11th, 2013 at 10:37 AM.
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  13. #12  
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    To whom it may concern, I can see by the number of your posts that you don't don't seem to have much of a life outside of here and I the newcomer are a threat to your little domain and by ganging up you are going to put me in my place. I can sort of understand that, childish as it may be but don't you see that this behavior can only result in turning people away from these forums? Who is going to post anything here if a certain little clique is going to circle you like a pack of wild dogs and everything you say is stripped down, dissected and twisted? I didn't post here for an argument,just a normal civil discussion and I would suggest that you answer any questions as if the person was standing right in front of you like they do on other forums.I find this augmentative style distasteful and as a consequence Im finished with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by redrooster View Post
    To whom it may concern, I can see by the number of your posts that you don't don't seem to have much of a life outside of here and I the newcomer are a threat to your little domain and by ganging up you are going to put me in my place. I can sort of understand that, childish as it may be but don't you see that this behavior can only result in turning people away from these forums? Who is going to post anything here if a certain little clique is going to circle you like a pack of wild dogs and everything you say is stripped down, dissected and twisted? I didn't post here for an argument,just a normal civil discussion and I would suggest that you answer any questions as if the person was standing right in front of you like they do on other forums.I find this augmentative style distasteful and as a consequence Im finished with it.
    Sorry you feel that way. It seems that the real basis for your complaint is that you came here with the desire not to discuss or learn, but to "spread the word." When your dogma was shown to be based on faulty premises, you got upset.

    This is a science forum. Science is based on evidence, and the theories constructed therefrom. Questioning and challenging is fundamental to the enterprise. Those who think that "all points of view are equally valid" will have a tough time in science.

    I hope you will stay around, open your mind, and learn how to discern what is and is not reliably established knowledge. Just because you read something on the web does not make it true. Learn to trace the evidential trail.
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    Did you know the analyzer website Alexa (that the owner of this site subscribes to) Rates the top keywords for this site, now wait for it. SARCASTIC INSULTS. You and your little clique have all but destroyed this site, with your augmentative, insulting sarcastic behavior.
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    Quote Originally Posted by redrooster View Post
    Did you know the analyzer website Alexa (that the owner of this site subscribes to) Rates the top keywords for this site, now wait for it. SARCASTIC INSULTS. You and your little clique have all but destroyed this site, with your augmentative, insulting sarcastic behavior.
    Look. You made an assertion. We corrected you. You tried to wave it away by claiming, effectively, that it was a matter of opinion (to paraphrase, that there were different versions of history to which one may subscribe). More specific information was presented to you, yet you behaved like a whiny little child whose candy was cruelly taken away.

    If you aren't interested in accuracy, don't post in a science forum. If you wish to learn something, stick around.

    If you want harsh correction, continue to assert erroneously long after fact-based refutations have been provided.

    Ask yourself what your purpose was in posting the first time -- was it in the spirit of sharing knowledge? If so, wouldn't you want to ensure that the knowledge was reliable? I sure would, and I would be grateful for evidence-based corrections offered.

    And if you weren't interested in posting facts, then why post in a science forum, where unreliable statements will be challenged?

    I don't understand your expectations. I don't think you do, yourself.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KJW View Post
    I'm fairly sure that most amplifiers still use discrete transistors for the power output stage.
    And electric cars, and the charger for your cellphone, and the driver for your laptop's LCD backlight, and the speed control in your cordless drill, and the ballast in your fluorescent light . . . discrete transistors are still all around us.
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  18. #17  
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    Just as I would have expected from Tk421 , More abusive behavior.
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