EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT GE

Dr. John Saby

 

Biographic Note

Dr. John Saby is frequently cited as the inventor of the alloy junction transistor in 1951/52.  (See Physics Today, Dec 1997 and Patent # 2,999,195 for a discussion). Similar work was being done at roughly the same time at the RCA Labs in Princeton, NJ.  For many years in the 1950’s and 1960’s, until the advent of satisfactory silicon technology, germanium junction technology was the dominant type and generated billions of dollars in revenue. Litigation over the actual patent rights for this historically important invention lasted for many years between GE and RCA.  This Oral History was taken in Sept, 1999 and documents Dr. Saby’s recollections of his work at GE. 

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The first alloy junction transistors?  Dr. Saby conceived of the idea of an “opposed dot” PNP structure while working as a research physicist at GE’s Electronics Lab in Syracuse, NY.  The larger unit above is the type first developed by John Saby using this concept of indium dots alloyed to a germanium die – this type dates from April 1951 and quite likely represents the earliest known sample of an alloy transistor.  The smaller unit shows a more mature technology (1952) constructed by Dr. Saby.

 

      

 

Oral History – John Saby

 

Which years did you work at GE, which positions and at which facilities?

 

I started in February 1951 through September 1956 at the GE Electronics Lab at Syracuse.  I was a research physicist until 1954/55 and then became Manager of the Semiconductors and Solid State Section.  From 9/56 until I retired in 3/82, I was at the GE Lighting Lab in Cleveland Ohio, with a final position of Manager of the Lamp Phenomena Research Lab.

 

When and where did transistor development begin at GE?

 

The point contact transistor work (prior to my time at GE) primarily supported some limited production for military applications, as an extension of large scale point contact diode production at the Clyde (Central NY state) plant.  When junction diodes were later made, primarily for medium current rectifier applications, these became a major product, also at Clyde.  The Clyde civic leaders had an upbeat billboard erected at each entrance to the town reading “Clyde, NY – The Germanium Diode Capital of the World”.  Oddly, GE located the original semiconductor work in the Heavy Military Department, Crystal Section, because GE’s manufacture of quartz crystals for critical military systems involved sawing of precision cut quartz crystals.

 

Go To Saby Oral History, Page 2

 

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