mannerisms

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

Related posts

11 Comments

  1. 2n3904
    August 06, 2010 14:25

    lol @ Trefor Hooker – I thought I was the only one who knew that!

  2. David Manners
    November 26, 2009 13:56

    Beautifully put, Bharath, almost brought tears to my eyes!

  3. Bharath
    November 26, 2009 13:51

    It was like watching the sun set, Germanium losing it’s intensity with time…Among Germanium devices the last to go in a consumer end appliance, perhaps in a radio was a germanium point contact diode, OA71 (used as AM detector).
    While all other devices got replaced by their colonial cousins(silicon) by the time i could do a shiny non-dry solder. This germanium device was adamant to remian with mortals for a little while long before bidding it’s good bye.
    Thank you Germanium, you served me well.
    MORAL: Simple things last long.
    Sincerely,
    Bharath

  4. rob gillatt
    November 26, 2009 12:57

    And what could be more satisfying than the marriage o the two – SiGe.

  5. John Young
    October 21, 2009 12:54

    Yup.
    You could turn an early OC71 into an OCP71 just by scratching the paint off it.
    Then Mullard started filling them with white gunk instead of clear.
    Spoilsports.

  6. Trefor Hooker
    October 20, 2009 14:33

    Was it true if you scratched the paint off an OC71 it became an OCP71?

  7. Mike Bryant
    October 16, 2009 14:52

    Mullard had a successful business for 2 decades selling germanium trannies. BAck then few hoobyists in Europe didn’t begin with an 0C44, 2 OC45s, an OC71 and 2 OC81s borrowed from a dead radio.

  8. david manners
    October 16, 2009 14:01

    Thanks Bud, fascinating stuff

  9. david manners
    October 16, 2009 13:55

    Well James I was thinking of Germanium Products Corp.

  10. James McGonigal
    October 16, 2009 08:52

    I think this first company to introduce a junction transistor was Raytheon (CK722), who had been very successful selling tubes (valves). Like parts of TI, Raytheon moved up the “food chain” and far from fading away is still a very successful company. It still retains strategic semiconductor capabilities but divested the majority of its semiconductor businesses in the late 90s and 00s. Fairchild acquired the mixed-signal business and the commercial RF PA business.

  11. bud unanski
    October 15, 2009 23:32

    Motorola Semiconductor and others had a thriving business going during the 60′s, 70′s and beyond selling Power Transistors made from Germanium. The forward junction voltage in Germanium is lower than Silicon, allowing for very low forward resistance, lower heat generation, etc. Indeed, the OPERATING temperature for Germanium devices was lower than for Silicon, which limited the applications. Many, many power supplies were produced through the years using Ge devices. I should know, I sold em!!!!!
    Bud Unanski
    IEEE Life Member.