Documenting the Major Contributions by General Electric to Transistor Development


The invention of the transistor is credited to William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at Bell Labs in December 1947.  Several major U.S. companies responded to this initial work with large scale research and manufacturing programs which transformed the early “lab curiosity” aspects of the transistor into a mature, ever-evolving technology, responsible for billions of dollars in commerce and providing the technological basis for the modern electronics and computer industries.  General Electric was an early and substantial contributor to the development of the transistor.  This webpage documents many of these major accomplishments. Correspondences and interviews with engineers and scientists who were involved form the basis for this material.  You’ll also find photographs of prototype and early production units, as well as a comprehensive coverage of early GE transistor literature. 


General Electric was a semiconductor powerhouse in the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with the basic research on pn junction diffusion at the Research Labs and the E-Labs, to the first commercial hermetically sealed and evacuated alloy junction transistors, to the famous and influential seven editions of the GE Transistor Manual, to mass production (in the millions) of germanium transistors, through to a major research and leadership role in unijunction transistors, tunnel diodes, triacs and SCR’s.  Here you’ll discover the inside story from those who were there and made this success possible.




Above is a photo of a lucite plaque commemorating the first transistor approved for general usage by the US Air Force. Because of the hermetic seal and evacuated chamber, the 2N43A performed well enough in a variety of challenging environmental conditions to be accepted by the USAF.  This was in 1955 and represented a major marketing and engineering triumph for GE.  The “tophat” case style and evacuation “pinched top” exhaust tube characterized GE transistors for years to come and set the standard for germanium transistor performance.



General Electric Oral Histories

Actual Interviews and Written Comments From Many of the Key Technical Contributors to the GE Early Transistor Program, Including:


Bill Gutzwiller


Robert Hall               Dwight Jones


Hugh Lowry               John Saby


Jerry Suran              Carl David Todd    



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