EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT GE

An Interview with Carl David Todd

Recollections from the First Days of Transistor Technology

 

Oral History Carl David Todd (Continued)

 

How did you begin your transistor work at General Electric?

 

During my junior year at Auburn, I wrote General Electric and RCA, asking them if they had displays regarding transistors that we could set up for our Engineer's Week exhibits I wanted to share my excitement with others concerning the coming things that would change their lives. Both companies complied, but the amount of information from GE was quite impressive. In my thank you letter, I asked if it would be possible to get a job at GE for the summer. That request was granted, and hands-on experience in the world of semiconductors was stepped up a notch.

 

I got to know the people in the research labs both at Syracuse and at Schenectady, and I learned about the problems of production and getting the yield up. At that time, GE was still producing the G11 and the G11A point contact transistors. They were also producing the 2N43, 44, and 45 family of PNP junction transistors. Those three months went by so fast, but I was soaking up as much knowledge as I could. I got to proof part of Dick Shea. et. al's new book on transistor applications. For a going away present, I was given a box of transistors.

 

As the senior year was drawing to a close, it was necessary to choose the company I would join. Remember, my primary goal was to be a Consulting Engineer in private practice, so I was looking for a company that I could join and learn from for the 12 years I had planned to work in industry.

 

Oral History Carl David Todd (Continued)

 

I interviewed and received solid offers from 52 companies. I traveled to some 20 of them and evaluated my opportunities to learn from them. IBM was high on my list, as they were designing and building computers and were just starting to incorporate transistors. While their offer was much higher than any other company, and looking over the 704-T (transistorized version of the IBM 704 computer) was most exciting, they informed me that, "Only our senior engineers will be working on the development of transistorized computers. You will be assigned to a drafting board for the first 5 to 7 years." I was stunned! Here they were so interested in my experience that they would make me a very good offer, yet they would restrain me for half the time I expected to work in industry! Their financial salary offer was very generous, but the offer of opportunity, or lack thereof, was far from acceptable. I turned them down. Bell Labs was also restrictive in what I would be doing, as were many other companies.

 

As I look back, I believe my choice to work for GE was a wise one. I doubt I would have been granted as much freedom or met as many helpful people (with another company). From process people and mechanization gurus, to research scientists in the labs, almost all were willing to take time to answer my endless questions and to listen to my suggestions. I had learned so much in just three months, imagine what I could learn in 12 years!

 

Go To Todd Oral History, Page 5

 

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