EARLY POWER SEMICONDUCTOR HISTORY AT GE

An Interview with F.W. “Bill” Gutzwiller

 The Early History of the Power Semiconductors (SCR and Triac)

 

Oral History – Bill Gutzwiller (Continued)

 

Two weeks later, after we’d returned to Milwaukee, the trademark blue envelop from GE showed up with an offer letter from Ray York, not one of the marketing types in Syracuse.  It proposed an engineering job in his Clyde operation with the later opportunity to transfer to Marketing, at an initial salary of a bit more than $5000 per year.  This was a nice increase from my salary at Harnischfeger.  At that time I had no semiconductor qualifications at all, only a diverse background and an eagerness to learn, contribute and to work hard.  Late in October I accepted the GE offer and indicated that the first workday of the new year 1955 would be my first day on the new job.  I was instructed to report to Electronics Park for physical exam and processing.  When I was sure there was no chance of misunderstandings with GE, I told Harnischfeger I would be leaving at the end of the year. 

 

On my first day at GE, I was surprised and excited to learn that I was being given sole responsibility to evaluate the electrical capabilities of the new-five ampere rectifier device and to come up with the ratings and characteristics information that would go on the sales and specification sheets for the device.  As part of this process, I would have to define the outgoing test specifications that would assure that the product would in fact do what it was specified to do.   There was nothing like it on the market yet. I was amazed at how much responsibility they were throwing at an unknown neophyte right off the street.

 

 

Oral History – Bill Gutzwiller (Continued)

 

 5 Amp Germanium Rectifier from 1955

 

The above photo was provided by Bill and represents the state-of-the-art in mid 1950s power semiconductor technology. The germanium rectifier is mounted on a metal fin heatsink (approx 3.5” square).   When Bill joined GE in 1955, he was given sole responsibility for evaluating the newly developed 4JA3011 series of germanium rectifiers, capable of handling an unheard of five amps.   According to Bill, “Similar work had been done on devices with one-tenth the power rating of the new device, but still there needed to be a lot of innovation to capitalize on the new capabilities.  There was nothing like it on the market yet.”

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Go To Gutzwiller Oral History, Page 4

 

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