"What we have to show you today represents a fine example of teamwork, of brilliant individual contributions and of the value of basic research in an industrial framework." --Ralph Bown, to the press on June 30, 1948


The Big Announcement

June 30, 1948

The patents had been received. The military had been informed. The time had finally come to tell the world about the transistor. On Wednesday, June 30, Bell Labs held a press conference to announce the invention. Led by research director Ralph Bown, the press conference was long and technical. Besides explaining that the transistor could probably replace the vacuum tube, little was said of the transistor's future applications.

The reporters heard a transistor-powered radio, and listened to transistor-boosted voices through headphones -- but their reactions were underwhelming. The story got some play in Time magazine and The New York Times, but not very prominently.

Reaction From Scientists

July 20, 1948

While the public might not have understood the importance of the transistor, the science community certainly did. By July 15, The Physical Review had published three short papers by Brattain, Bardeen and Shockley. And in September, Electronics magazine ran a cover story on the breakthrough.

Bell organized a technical demonstration for scientists on July 20. Lee De Forest, whose audion the transistor was to replace, didn't show up -- joking that he couldn't attend the "wake" of his invention. Seymour Benzer from the Purdue group that had also been working towards building a working transistor did attend. Benzer walked up to Brattain after the demonstration, shaking his head. "We had no idea of this," he said.

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