When TI announced commercial availability of the silicon transistor in 1954, this photograph of a silicon transistor superimposed on a three-cent U.S. postage stamp was used to show its relative size.

TI introduces first commercial silicon transistor

Many scientists predicted it would be years before a production-worthy silicon transistor process could be developed, and others theorized it could never be built in quantity. But Executive Vice President Pat Haggerty's plan was in place, and TI had the team to meet the challenge head-on.

By the summer of 1953, the team was working night and day on the dual tasks of producing the silicon crystals with electrically satisfactory junctions, and developing methods of fabricating silicon transistors.

In April 1954, it all came together. Using high-purity silicon material purchased from DuPont, the team grew a silicon crystal. They cut a quarter-inch bar from the crystal and attached the electrical contacts to it on the morning of April 14.

On May 10, 1954, TI announced the commercial availability of grown-junction silicon transistors.

Semiconductor R&D chief Gordon Teal was scheduled to speak that day at the Institute of Radio Engineers National Convention in Dayton, Ohio.

Four days before the convention, Teal approached Executive Vice President Pat Haggerty with the proposal that TI announce not only the silicon transistor, but that TI was in production. He pointed out that they now had several crystal pullers running and a pilot line set up and assembling units. They had already built about 150 very good transistors, and had characterized and written specifications for them. Haggerty agreed, and Teal now had a technical one-two punch far beyond anyone's expectations for the conference.

At the conference, Teal remembered, “During the morning sessions, the speakers had unwittingly set the stage for us. One after the other (speakers), … remarked about how hopeless it was to expect the development of a silicon transistor in less than several years. They advised the industry to be satisfied with germanium transistors for the present. We of TI listened with great respect and mounting exultation, because I had a handful of excellent silicon transistors in my pocket.”

As Teal began his presentation, he read through 24 of the 31 pages without mentioning his team's achievement at TI. The crowd was less than attentive after listening to a day of technical papers. Then Teal dropped his bombshell.

“Contrary to what my colleagues have told you…,” he began. His message stunned everyone who heard it: Silicon transistors were a fact. TI was producing them.

After a moment of silence, someone in the audience yelled, “Did you say you have the silicon transistor in production?”

“Yes,” Teal answered, “we have three types of silicon transistors in production. I happen to have a few in my pocket.” Now came the props.

Teal turned and switched on an RCA 45-rpm turntable, playing the swinging sounds of Artie Shaw's “Summit Ridge Drive.” The germanium transistors in the amplifier of the record player were dunked in a beaker of hot oil, and the sound died away as the devices failed from the high temperature. Then Teal switched over to an identical amplifier with silicon transistors, placed it in the hot oil, and the music played on. One conference attendee was heard shouting into a pay phone in the lobby, “They've got the silicon transistor down in Texas.” The silicon age had arrived in Teal's coat pocket.

TI began production of the grown-junction silicon transistor several years ahead of the industry's best estimates and surged to the forefront. TI was no longer a small company with a big idea; TI had become the industry leader.

 
Silicon transistor development team
Hand drawing of transistor
TI produces first commercial silicon transistor
News release
First silicon transistor
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