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Introduction to Transistors

The discovery of the first transistor in 1948 by a team of physicists at the Bell Telephone Laboratories sparked an interest in solid-state research that spread rapidly. The transistor, which began as a simple laboratory oddity, was rapidly developed into a semiconductor device of major importance. The transistor demonstrated for the first time in history that amplification in solids was possible. Before the transistor, amplification was achieved only with electron tubes. Transistors now perform numerous electronic tasks with new and improved transistor designs being continually put on the market. In many cases, transistors are more desirable than tubes because they are small, rugged, require no filament power, and operate at low voltages with comparatively high efficiency. The development of a family of transistors has even made possible the miniaturization of electronic circuits.

Transistors have infiltrated virtually every area of science and industry, from the family car to satellites. Even the military depends heavily on transistors. The ever increasing uses for transistors have created an urgent need for sound and basic information regarding their operation.

From your study of the PN-junction diode in the preceding topic, you now have the basic knowledge to grasp the principles of transistor operation. In this topic you will first become acquainted with the basic types of transistors, their construction, and their theory of operation. You will also find out just how and why transistors amplify. Once this basic information is understood, transistor terminology, capabilities, limitations, and identification will be discussed. Last, we will talk about transistor maintenance, integrated circuits, circuit boards, and modular circuitry.

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