How to Produce Transistors


August 1948

Bell Labs gave its scientists the freedom to pursue basic research -- if they hadn't, the transistor would never have been invented.  But the company's main goal was still to put inventions like this to good use.   Before transistors could be put into the phone system or sold to others, they'd have to be substantially improved. 

AT&T had a history of quick turnaround times from invention to production, but this was different. There were still a lot of obstacles to be overcome -- even slamming a door hard enough could stop one of those early transistors from working.  On top of that, no two transistors worked the same way.  The researchers would have to come up with some substantial improvements before this device was going to be ready for mass production.
Jack Morton

On the other hand, Bell didn't want to put a stop to scientists following their own leads either, since that had often resulted in interesting inventions.  So just after the invention of the transistor had been announced to the publicMervin Kelly, then the research director of Bell, divided what had been the solid state group into two new groups.

One would continue under Shockley as it always had, studying properties of materials. The other would operate under engineer Jack Morton and concentrate solely on how to improve transistors. 

Soon, various organizations began to request transistors -- most notably the military, which wanted to replace the bulky transistors in walkie-talkies with smaller electronics -- so the Morton group quickly began to turn out as many as they could.  Starting a production line, after all, was one way of figuring out how to get the kinks out of the process. 

But down the hall, it turned out to be Shockley's group which finally devised a transistor that was suited to mass production.  



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