How is the transistor an important advancement in physics?
You posted this thread with something that could not be built without transistors.
Transistors are a major development in engineering or applied science. Before they came into use, computers, radios, tv, etc. were all built around vacuum tubes. These were much less reliable than transistors and their successors - integrated circuits. Moreover, computers were much slower with vacuum tubes than with transistors. At the time of the first transition (late 1950's) computer speeds were increased by a factor of twelve.
I think the importance of transistors to pure science is that they were the first engineering application of quantum mechanics. It's also an interesting insight into how science and engineering work. The first radios used crystals rather than tubes- but crystals were pretty much an engineers "make do". Nobody knew enough theory about them to improve them much so tubes were developed instead. Then along came quantum theory and transistors- which are really glorified (and better understood) crystals.
Halls of Ivy,
Transistors are just glorified crystals?
Weren't the crystals in early radios just used to detect signals from modulated carriers; that is, weren't they just crude diodes? That's a long way from a transistor, a device that can amplify and switch.
I've always thought the invention of the transistor (let alone the integrated circuit) was outside the realm of physics, Nobel prizes not withstanding. But at least the Nobel citation for the IC got it right: not that its invention was such an advance in physics, but that its subsequent applications to instrumentation and data analysis advanced physics (and every other field of science) immeasurably.
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