Shockley was a member of the team at Bell Laboratories investigating the properties of electricity conducting crystals, focusing in particular on germanium.
This research led to the development of the junction transistor, virtually invalidating the vacuüm tube overnight.
The First Transistor Photo: Bell Labs
The transistor was developed in 1947 as a replacement for bulky vacuum tubes and mechanical relays. The invention revolutionized the world of electronics and became the basic building block upon which all modern computer technology rests.
In 1956, Bell Labs scientists William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for the transistor.
Shockley also founded Shockley Semiconductor in Mountain View, California — one of the first high-tech companies in what would later become known as Silicon Valley.
‘The number of transistors on a computer doubles every 18 months or so’
In 1965, one of the founders of chipmaker Intel observed the exponential growth in the number of transistors per silicon chip and made his prediction which is now generally referred to as Moore’s law.
In 1971 the first Intel chip, 4004, had 2300 transistors. In 1982 the number of transistors increased to 120,000 in the 286, in 1993 to 3.1 million in the Pentium and in 2000 to 42 million in the Pentium 4.
Heat production is now the limiting factor in the production of silicon chips with millions of transistors.