CHAPTER 1
Perspectives

1.1 The ‘Information Age’

Sitting contemplatively, in front of my computer screen, seeking inspiration on how best to make a convincing start to the writing of this book, my mind wandered over the technical changes which had occurred in my life since I had last been engaged on a similar enterprise. That was in the 1980s when I collaborated with Peter Blood on, what turned out (to us) to be, an awesomely lengthy summary of experimental techniques for semiconductor characterization. I reflected that, between us, we had written all 1026 pages of these two volumes by hand, delivering countless longhand pages to long-suffering typists who performed the near impossible task of rendering them comprehensible to the typesetters of Academic Press. How things have changed! Today, I compose everything, I write on my own word processor, and submit it in electronic form (now the errors really are all my own!), the major problem of filing and collating huge quantities of information being taken care of more or less automatically. I need do no more than take care to back up my long-suffering hard disk with an array of carefully labelled floppies—or, better still, a single CD.

Of course, similar possibilities existed 20 years ago, when Peter and I began our collaboration but the fact that we could choose to ignore them then serves to emphasize the change in working practices which those 20 years have ushered in. It reflects, though, only one incidence of the influence the ubiquitous silicon chip has had on our lives over the past few decades—remember, the transistor, itself, was invented as recently as 1947, little more than 50 years ago—and, then, it was made from germanium—silicon had not even been heard of (!) (at least, not outside the laboratory and certain esoteric military applications). It is hardly an original thought, but the pace of change in our times is certainly remarkable, if not (to many) actually frightening.

Once launched, then, on my train of thought, I have little difficulty in following this observation with others in a similar vein. Not only do I have a facsimile machine as an integral function of my office telephone, but my computer serves me also as basis for e-mail communication with colleagues and friends all round the world. Similarly, I can obtain technical information (or the times of trains to London) in huge

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The Story of Semiconductors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • Chapter 1 - Perspectives 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Cat's Whiskers 19
  • Chapter 3 - Minority Rule 47
  • Chapter 4 - Silicon, Silicon, and Yet More Silicon 93
  • Chapter 5 - The Compound Challenge 149
  • Chapter 6 - Low Dimensional Structures 213
  • Chapter 7 - Let There Be Light 277
  • Chapter 8 - Communicating with Light 331
  • Chapter 9 - Semiconductors in the Infrared 385
  • Chapter 10 - Polycrystalline and Amorphous Semiconductors 447
  • Index 503
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