Professor Paul Penfield Jr. was
one of the first and most prolific authors of articles on the just emerging
transistor technology of the 1950s.
These classic articles were published in such widely read
electronics magazines of the day as Radio-TV News, Radio-Electronics, Audio
and Audiocraft. If you were an electronics experimenter, engineer, or
hobbyist in the 1950s, and were eager to learn about transistors and
actually build a construction project using these newly invented devices,
it’s likely you read one of Paul’s pioneering articles. Beginning in 1954, and continuing
through 1958, Paul had more than 70 articles on transistors published in
electronics industry publications. This four year period represented a
rapidly changing time in transistor technology, and Paul’s well written
articles provided a readable and interesting account of these developments.
After earning his Sc.D. degree
in Electrical Engineering from MIT in 1960, Paul was no longer involved in
writing transistor related articles for the popular electronics press. In the past four decades, he has been
associated with MIT in a variety of roles, including Head of the Department
of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
This Oral History will discuss
Paul’s classic transistor articles from the 1950s.
Historic Audio Recordings
Oral History – Paul Penfield Jr.
This Oral History is excerpted from an interview
conducted in August, 2003.
Paul, before we discuss
your transistor articles from the 1950s, would you please provide a few highlights
of your career?
After completing my
undergraduate work at Amherst College in Physics, I moved on to MIT, first
as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student, preparatory to getting
my doctorate in 1960. I was there
for five years, from 1955 to 1960, and my doctorate was in Electrical
Engineering. It was during this
period (as an undergraduate and graduate student) that I wrote the
transistor articles. I joined the
MIT faculty after graduating in 1960, but really was not involved with
transistors after that time. I did
a lot of work with variable capacitance diodes and in 1962 co-authored a
book, “Varactor Applications”, on this topic. I continued on at MIT, but my interests shifted away from
semiconductors into electrodynamics, computer languages and other
areas. I became Associate Dept Head
in the 1970s. Next I headed up the
MIT VLSI program for 10 years in the 1980s and then I was the Department
Head (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) from 1989 until I
stepped down in 1999. Since then I
have continued to be affiliated with MIT and the department.
To Penfield Oral History, Page 2