There were countless inventions that have change humanity.But there are some that have changed the world to unrecognisable scale. Such asthe invention of the wheel, the compass, printing press, combustion engine orthe light bulb. I would like to discuss an invention that has started a newEra, the Age of Information.
A single invention couldn’t change the world more than thetransistor did. All that you see on any screen, a TV, PC, Laptop, Phone or aTablet is all just series of ones and zeroes. Beamed across the entire Planetthe two simplest numbers allow us to communicate and share all the pictures,videos and text with each other. This single invention has allowed a huge jumpforward for humanity.Before the transistor existed, vacuum tubes were used.
In anutshell they are simple glass bulbs that consist of three parts: cathode, gridand anode. An electrical current is used to heat up the anode and releaseelectrons. Electrons are attracted to the anode and that completes the current.The grid is used as a switch. A positive charge allows the electrons to paththrough, but a negative charge repels electrons.1 This is the foundation ofbinary coding! Here positive voltage is a one and negative is a zero. The ENIAC, worlds first electronic computer (Electronic NumericalIntegrator and Computer) used 18000 vacuum tubes to perform calculations.It weighted more than30 tons and consumed lots of energy.
2Besides weight and size difficulties, vacuum bulbs would also often burn outand needed to be replaced. It is hard to imagine a world where a computer would weightmore than a ton and a phone would be as big as a TV. That is why vacuum tubeswere hardly an option for the technology to spread and become available to thepublic. That’s where the transistor revolutionized everything. To perform suchcalculations as the ENIAC a modern phone needs just one transistor smaller thana fingernail. An iPhone X, for example, has 4 billion transistors.
3 The main component of a transistor is Silicon. It is usedwith Phosphorus and Boron to perform a similar function to what a vacuum bulbdoes using the grid. Here Phosphorus creates a negative charge (a zero) andBoron creates a positive charge (one).
The speed at witch a computer operates depends heavily onits transistors speed to switch between zeroes and ones. The speed of atransistor is affected by it’s size, the smaller – the faster. Since theelectrons will have to travel less distance, the operating speed will increaserespectively. Since 1970s the production of transistors has improved immensely,now microscopic transistors are produced by the thousands on round siliconwafers.
4 Building thetransistor chip is an extremely complex process that is generally divided intotwo parts: the front end part is specialized to produce the components of thecircuit, while the back end is meant to connect all the components and test thewhole chip. A single transistor on the chip sprung 90 nanometres size. 5In general, both the vacuum tube and the transistor usesame principals and the idea behind the technology is identical. The triode isjust like an NPN type transistor, that was described above, except that thefirst uses more of physics, while the second has more chemistry to it. Wherethe grids polarity in the vacuum bulb makes all the difference by controllingthe flow of electrical current, a transistor uses Silicon with doping (P and B)to do the same – allow or stop the flow of electrons.
Achieve a simple tasklike that and here you have it – the technology that is implemented in almostevery electrical device. The transistors are and will keep getting smaller, nowthey are just 50 atoms across. According to Moor’s Law, every two years thenumber of transistors on a chip should double.6 Sadly, there is a limit tothat, where quantum tunneling will limit their size. In any case humanity isstill far from facing that problem.
Until then the transistorswill only improve, become smaller, faster and more efficient. Until thenquantum computer might change the way we live or a new much more uniquetechnology will begin a new Era of humanities evolution, like the transistor did.