EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT BELL LABS

An Interview with Homer Coonce

 Early Transistor Digital Logic - Flyable TRADIC to Nike Zeus

 

 

Copyright  © 1963 by Warren Weaver

This is an official White Sands Missile Range photograph of a 1963 Nike Zeus missile launch that was conducted during a visit by President Kennedy.  The Mike Zeus program was the first large scale missile system to use transistors in preference to vacuum tubes.  Bell Labs was heavily involved in the Nike projects, beginning with Nike Ajax in 1946.

 

 

TRANSISTORS FOR NATIONAL DEFENSE

Approximately ten years after the first public announcement of the transistor in 1948, this new technology had matured to the point that devices of reliability and performance suitable for military use were available.  The 2N559, shown above as the two small gold units in the center of the photograph, was selected for use in the Nike Zeus Missile Program. As Homer mentions in this Oral History, the 2N559 was a diffused junction germanium type, developed at Bell Labs and capable of reliable operation up to 400 MCs.  The large gray plastic device shown to the right in the above photo is an example of a Nike Zeus circuit pack “Module A”, which used multiple 2N559s – this module is typical of the type referenced by Homer. The other transistors in the photo represent various stages of transistor development in the 1950s – all are Bell Labs/Western Electric devices, except the black CK723, which was made for consumer applications by Raytheon in 1953.  Note the wide variety of case styles and numbering schemes used in the first decade of transistor development.  The black unit in the lower center, with the gray and orange dots, is a type 1833, which represents one of the first metal cased junction devices developed by Bell Labs (1952).

 

Go To Coonce Oral History, Pg 8

 

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