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Changing the world
Vacuum tube

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Changing the world
Vacuum tube

"We knew we were going to be right into computers, but I don't think we imagined quite how far it's gone these days. We knew we were going to change the world—we just didn't know how we were going to change it."
–Gene Anderson, in "Sizable Switch: Advent of transistor in 1947 changed course of technology" by Alexandra Witze,  Dallas Morning News, December 8, 1997. 


Gene Anderson

Gene Anderson was a technician in the lab that turned the first transistors into a commercial device. He began his career at Bell Labs working with vacuum tubes, and so had a front-row seat to see vacuum tube research be completely replaced by the transistor. 

Anderson was born in Lima, Ohio, in 1916. In college, he promised himself that he would never go to graduate school, he would never do research, and he would never work with vacuum tubes. Then, in the middle of the Depression in 1939, he was hired at Bell Labs by the vacuum tube research department. He said that it took him about thirty days to get used to it, but "it's been my life ever since." 

With time, most people who worked with vacuum tubes at Bell Labs naturally moved over to semiconductor research. Anderson made the switch in 1948, when he was assigned to a new transistor development group. His job was as an engineer, helping to turn the transistor into an efficient and usable device. 

After he'd left vacuum tubes behind, Anderson became an expert in semiconductors and semiconductor devices, even serving on a government committee to give advice on what semiconductor research the U.S. should fund.  Anderson worked at Bell Labs until he transferred to Western Electric in 1957. He retired in 1975. 


Gene Anderson talks about the revolution of the transistor:
"The first revolution of the transistor was to bring information to all parts of the world. Some places had been out of date for a hundred years or two hundred years or more, and so on. And I don't know whether that was for good or bad. It certainly brought information to a lot of people who may have been happy with what they had, and now know a great deal of things that they didn't want to know. And it brought an awful lot of loud music to a lot of people where they hadn't had it before. But they all seem to like it. But that was a true revolution, no question about it."

Gene Anderson talks about the transistor changing the world:
"I can remember right from the beginning—Jack Morton in particular said, 'We're going to change the world.' He says in what way he wasn't sure, but change it we will. And of course we did."

Gene Anderson talks about doing vacuum tube research:
"When I was in college I swore I'd not do three things: I'd not take graduate work, I wouldn't do research, and I wouldn't work on vacuum tubes. So when I was hired, I suddenly discovered I had been assigned to the vacuum tube research department (chuckles), and that has been my life ever since. I couldn't possibly believe in working anywhere else—it was the cream of the fields that I might have been working in."


--Gene Anderson, interview for "Transistorized!"
--"Sizable Switch: Advent of transistor in 1947 changed course of technology" by Alexandra Witze,  Dallas Morning News December 8 1997. 

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