EARLY POWER SEMICONDUCTOR HISTORY AT GE

An Interview with F.W. “Bill” Gutzwiller

 The Early History of the Silicon Controlled Rectifier

 

Oral History – Bill Gutzwiller (Continued)

 

Gordon proudly brought me the first “SCR”, and said, “Now show me what you can do with it!”  The monkey was on my back.  I thought of what might best demonstrate the device’s capabilities and decided on a motor control.  During lunch hour I walked down to Western Auto, the only hardware store in the village of Clyde, and bought an electric hand drill.  In those days, hand drills had two speeds: ON and OFF.  With this drill in hand, I went back into the lab and concocted a simple firing circuit for the SCR’s control lead, connected Gordon’s new laboratory device up with the motor and the control circuit, and turned the power on cautiously.  Nothing exploded!  As I turned the control potentiometer, the drill started turning slowly, and then faster as I turned the control further.  It worked ... the world’s first solid-state motor control!  I also soldered together a lamp dimmer circuit to demonstrate how an SCR could dim lamps in an efficient manner.  Gordon and Ray York were elated and immediately called in the general management from Syracuse to observe and to approve a major development program for this new product, which had been totally “Swiss-Navy” until now, done on everyone’s spare time without any official development authorization.  Leave it to a small and dedicated bunch of engineers to innovate!  Within a matter of weeks, Gordon’s team had developed a manufacturable SCR which was capable of operating on a 120 volt power line and controlling 16 amperes. 

 

 

 

 

Oral History – Bill Gutzwiller (Continued)

 

 Reprint from Electronics - Mar 28, 1958

 

After the initial development of the SCR and the press announcement by GE, there was a very high level of interest in this new device.  The Dec 28, 1957 issue of Business Week reported excitedly about the new GE “controlled rectifier” and the large potential market – a photo of Bill at a lab bench adjusting a prototype SCR was featured.  In addition, Bill co-authored a technical paper, “Solid-State Thyratron Switches Kilowatts”, which appeared in the March 28, 1958 issue of Electronics magazine [3]. These national publications were widely read and led directly to substantial requests for information about the SCR.  Above is a photo of Bill from the 1958 Electronics article – he is shown with one of test setups used to develop the first SCR application circuits.

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Go To Gutzwiller Oral History, Page 7

 

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