An Interview with Homer Coonce

Early Transistor Digital Logic - Flyable TRADIC to Nike Zeus


Historical Comments


In a 37 year career with Bell Labs, Homer E. Coonce was a member of the engineering teams responsible for two of the most significant Bell Labs projects to use early transistor digital logic – the Flyable TRADIC digital computer and the Nike Zeus anti-missile system. His initial assignments at Bell Labs involved working with the first point contact and junction transistors, with focus on device characterization and logic circuit development.    This Oral History was taken in July 2005, and highlights Homer’s important transistor-related activities in the 1950s and 1960s.



The above is a germanium pnp junction transistor made by Homer in late 1952, during one of his first assignments at Bell Labs.  The glass body of the device is 1.25” in length, enclosing a single crystal N-Type germanium die.  The photo shows the gold base connection and the relatively large diameter aluminum wire used for the collector.  A smaller gauge aluminum wire, placed on the opposite side of the wafer directly in line with the collector, became the emitter.  After more than 50 years, the junctions of this hand-made transistor are still functional.



Oral History – Homer Coonce


Please provide a summary of your career with Bell Labs. 


I started at BTL on June 16, 1952 and retired at the end of 1989.  My home department was at Whippany, NJ. where the emphasis was on Military Systems.  New employees were required to complete three assignments in other areas during their first year of employment.  Two of my assignments were at Murray Hill and one was at Baltimore at WE's Point Breeze Works.  I worked on TRADIC flyable from 1954 to 1956.  The Nike Zeus development followed from 1957 to 1960.  A Signal Corps project known as UNICOM, for Universal Communications System, was next in 1961 and 1962.  My primary responsibility on these projects involved device characterization, logic circuit design, and wiring rules.  The next job was to develop a 4-Wire Electronic Switching System, called AUTOVON, using the same basic design as the No. 1 ESS.  This project took me to Cheyenne Mtn at Colorado Springs in 1964 and then, in 1966, to Indian Hill in Naperville, IL where I worked until my retirement.  I worked on the development of a Toll ESS, later known as the No. 4 ESS, until 1981 in various assignments including logic design, wiring rules, power distribution, and field support.  After that, until my retirement, I worked on Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) issues. 



Go To Coonce Oral History, Pg 2



COPYRIGHT © 2005 by Jack Ward.  All Rights Reserved.  http://www.transistormuseum.com/