Interestingly, at first he had designed the
Gun-to-p-computer Switch using vacuum tubes, using conventional design
concepts. However, the
characteristics of the newly invented point contact transistors seemed
suitable also. At that time, the preponderance of development effort
involving transistors was to characterize the new transistors so that they
could be included in the armoire of available components. However, people were also looking for
opportunities to use them as working circuit elements, and a limited number
were available for this purpose.
Through the courtesy of Jean Felker, Walter was able to obtain
prototype point contact transistors, and found their characteristics to be
suitable for his application.
Accordingly the Gun-to-p-computer Switch used in the Gunnery System
Simulator used point contact transistors, which performed satisfactorily
for its several-year life.
The following Oral History is
based on an interview conducted in May 2005, and reflects Walter’s personal
recollections of his pioneering work with the Type A transistor in
– Walter MacWilliams
Before we discuss your
early work with point contact transistors, I’d be interested in a summary
of your career at Bell Labs.
I was at Bell Labs from
January, 1946 to January 1982. I
started at Murray Hill, N.J., working on the Mark 65 program (this was the
basis of the first transistor work, and will be discussed in detail
later). After this, I was
transferred to head up a study of the control of interceptor aircraft when
used to counter an air attack on a Naval Task Force. I went on to work with the test of the
newly-designed SAGE System, an array of radars and computers used to defend
the United States against air attack.
This work led to the study of an extension to Canada, called the
CAGE system, working for the Canadian Air Force. Following this work, I did planning for UNICOM, a Universal
Communication System for handling communications within the U.S. Army. From
there I headed an Operations Research Department and conducted a study of
Bell System Business Offices. At
the time of the Korean War, I was called back to work with AICBM (Anti
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) defense. Later I designed a
computer-aided teaching system, and, at the time of my retirement, I had
been working on BIS, a Business Information System.
To MacWilliams Oral History, Pg 3
Historic Audio Recordings