The Story of Semiconductors

The Story of Semiconductors

The Story of Semiconductors

The Story of Semiconductors

Synopsis

The book provides an overview of the fascinating spectrum of semiconductor physics, devices and applications, presented from a historical perspective. It covers the development of the subject from its inception in the early nineteenth century to the recent millennium. Written in a lively,informal style, it emphasizes the interaction between pure scientific push and commercial pull, on the one hand, and between basic physics, materials, and devices, on the other. It also sets the various device developments in the context of systems requirements and explains how such developments metwide ranging consumer demands. It is written so as to appeal to students at all levels in physics, electrical engineering, and materials science, to teachers, lecturers, and professionals working in the field, as well as to a non-specialist scientific readership.

Excerpt

My wife and I bought our first television set in 1966, a major family decision, which just happened to coincide with England’s soccer World Cup success at Wembley Stadium. It cost us about £100 out of my then salary of £2000 a year. Thirty years later, when I retired on a salary some twenty times greater, the purchase of an infinitely superior colour set priced at little more than £500 could be contemplated with considerably less heart-searching. Indeed, the financial outlay involved in watching England’s rugby World Cup success in 2003 gave us scarcely a qualm, one measure, perhaps, of the quite remarkable trend in consumer friendliness inherent in the modern electronics industry. in this we see one of the great successes of capitalist philosophy—a highly competitive business environment yielding previously unimaginable value for the consumer, while providing relatively comfortable employment for a very large workforce and (in spite of recent setbacks, exemplified by the misfortunes of the Marconi company) a satisfactory return on invested capital for its shareholders. But, more significantly from the viewpoint of this book, we also see a business based fairly and squarely on investment in scientific research. With the possible exception of the pharmaceutical industry, there has never been such a commitment to organized R&D and never before has the marriage between science and industry been so prolific in its progeny.

More specifically, this remarkable commercial success owes its existence largely to discoveries in semiconductor physics, which blossomed during the first half of the twentieth century and to developments in semiconductor technology and device concept, which followed the exciting events of Christmas 1947 when Bell scientists realized the World’s first successful solid-state amplifier. Here was vindication for Bell’s commitment to basic solid-state research in an industrial laboratory, which set the pattern for a rapidly expanding commercial activity, an activity which has continued to grow at a remarkably consistent rate into the present, truly worldwide industry we know today. It began with Germanium, which was immediately replaced by silicon, then gradually drew in an amazing cohort of compound semiconductor materials required to meet the rapidly diversifying range of device . . .

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