An Interview with Walter MacWilliams

 Developing the First “Working” Transistor Application


Oral History – Walter MacWilliams



Of course, I had followed our usual practice of making a “witnessed and understood” notebook entry on any new feature, and the novelty of the transistor resulted in the prompt filing of a patent application.  That application established the date.  It was only when the patent application was filed that the primacy became apparent.


A final question – Do you know what became of the Transistor Matrix?

After ATWEA, 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.  Meanwhile, the Gunnery System Simulator had outlived its usefulness, and, unbeknownst to me, was scrapped without anyone having preserved the apparatus that had been the first to use transistors.  What a shame! 


These Audio Links are Excerpts

from a May 2005 Interview

 with Walter MacWilliams


 First Exposure to Early

Transistor Technology

Walter MacWilliams Audio Clip #1


Designing and Building the Transistor Gating Matrix in 1949

Walter MacWilliams Audio Clip #2




Oral History – Walter MacWilliams





[1] Fagen, M.D, editor. History of Engineering & Science in the Bell System: National Service in War & Peace (1925-1975). Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1978.  Chapter 11 (“Command and Control”) of this text, written by Walter MacWilliams and T.W. Winternitz provides a detailed discussion of the Mark 65 program and the Transistor Gating Matrix.  



[2] MacWilliams Jr, W.H., “A Transistor Gating Matrix for a Simulated Warfare Computer”, Bell Laboratories Record, March, 1957.  Walter’s five page article offers his first hand account, with photos, schematics and concise commentary.   



[3] Irvine, M. M., “Early Digital Computers at Bell Telephone Laboratories”, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, July-Sept, 2001.  Maury Irvine’s 20 page article is unmatched for documenting the history of Bell Labs computers, including the Transistor Gating. This is a highly recommended article for researchers and historians.  


[4] Link to the TransistorMuseum.com  PhotoEssay on the TYPE A Point Contact Transistor  Photos and commentary on the historic Type A transistor. 



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