Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.
Fable: The Company Which Made Germanium Transistors
There was once a company which achieved the remarkable feat of getting the first junction transistor to market.
The company manufactured the device in 1952, the same year as the inventors of the transistor, Bell Labs, held a symposium to licence the technology and show people how to manufacture transistors.
The company was very successful making transistors which it sold to the manufacturers of hearing aids and it expanded rapidly.
“We expect to chase the vacuum tube price to hell and gone”, declared the company’s president.
However, the company’s base technology, germanium, had an inherent characteristic which meant its applications were limited, which in turn meant it could never be produced in high volume, and high volume was the only way that cost could be brought down.
The characteristic which limited the technology’s application was germanium’s inability to withstand high temperatures.
When silicon transistors came along in 1954 (from TI), silicon became the base technology for transistors which could withstand high temperatures and so had limitless applications and unlimited potential for volume production.
The company which made germanium transistors faded into history, while TI had a 25 year reign as the world’s biggest semiconductor company, and is currently the world’s third largest semiconductor supplier.
MORAL: All that glisters is not gold.Tags: aids, base technology, high temperatures, tube price, volume 2c