On this day back in 1947, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen had a big day – they did the first live demonstration of a transistor, in a presentation to their superiors at Bell Laboratories.

In the demo, a microphone and headphones were connected to a transistor, and when they spoke over the device, there was ‘no noticeable change in quality’ (according to Brattain’s notes). They finished building their demonstration device just a few short days earlier, on 16 December 1947, so I am sure the excitement must have been quite high on the day of the demo to the bosses.

The name ‘transistor’, by the way, was chosen because of the trans-resistance properties of the component.

Compact, rugged little transistors, replacing the bulky and fragile vacuum tubes of old.(© All Rights Reserved)
Compact, rugged little transistors, replacing the bulky and fragile vacuum tubes of old.
(© All Rights Reserved)

The transistor was basically a much smaller and more usable replacement for the bulky vacuum tubes used before, and as such opened up many new possibilities in electronic component development. This lead to it being referred to as ‘the electronic engineer’s dream’.

At least their efforts didn’t go unnoticed – for their invention, Brattain and Bardeen shared the 1956 Nobel Price for Physics.

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