The transistor was invented in 1947 by a group of
scientists at Bell Laboratories. John Bardeen and Walter Brattain
recieved the Nobel Prize for its invention in 1956. William Shockley
was another scientist at Bell Labs who was largely responsible for its
invention. The three men were working to improve technology for
communication by researching semiconductors.
There's a whole
bunch of scientific details to the research that they were doing that
I'm not going to go into, but here's a really good page on transistors
if you want to read about the details.
all of that scientific stuff let them make something that could amplify
(make bigger) an electric signal. One of the big reasons that that's
important is because in the past, the only way they could do that was
by using vacuum tubes, which were really really big. And they had to
use a lot of them. Transistors could do the same thing even though they
were a lot smaller.
That leads me to your second question.
It's hard to say what the _most_ important effect of the transistor
was. That's because there have been so many different effects, and I
sure don't know what they all are. But I'll tell you about a few of
One is computers. Computers were invented about 8 years
before transistors were. Those computers were big enough to fill entire
rooms (because they used big vacuum tubes) and were about as powerful
as a small pocket calculator today. Because of the transistor, they
were able to make computers that were much much smaller. They did the
same thing with radios. You may have seen pictures of radios from when
your grandparents or great-grandparents were young. They were really
big clunky things. By using the transistor, we now have radios that can
even fit in your alarm clock!
Another thing that we couldn't
have done without the transistor is space travel. In order for a space
shuttle (or a satelite) to get up into space, it needs to be as small
as possible. It also needs to have computers on board to help make
calculations. The computers from before were much to big to fit on a
space shuttle. But since we have the transistor, now we can.
have been lots of other effects of the transistor (and having smaller
computers) since then. It would be pretty much impossible for me to
list them all since there's so many. If you want to find more, you can
try looking around at your school library.
(republished on 07/18/06)