CLASSIC 1950s ARTICLES ON EARLY TRANSISTOR AUDIO AND HOBBYIST APPLICATIONS

An Interview with Paul Penfield Jr.

 

Oral History Paul Penfield Jr.

(Continued)

 

I noticed from the list of publications on your website that the number of transistor related articles dramatically increased from 1954 through 1958, with as many as 20 published articles a year in 1956 and 1957. Was this a full time activity?

 

No, this was very much a part time thing, and basically I worked on these evenings and over weekends. This had nothing to do with my school work exactly. After I graduated from college (Amherst) 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. My doctorate was in electrical engineering. During this period, I continued to write these articles. Im not convinced these were great articles, or that the construction projects were as high quality as you could buy, but at the time, there was nothing else, and there was a vacuum in the literature for hobbyists and for people, who already knew something about electronic, who wanted to learn transistors. I tried to fill that vacuum, along with several other people, and I think we did a reasonable job, publishing a whole series of articles. I had a long series in Audiocraft magazine, which must have encompassed 20 or so articles, covering all aspects of designing transistor audio circuits.

 

How were you able to decide the topics for your transistor articles?

 

 

 

 

 

Oral History Paul Penfield Jr.

(Continued)

 

My articles were basically of two types. One type of article was construction projects. That went all the way from a guitar amplifier, a portable phonograph you could take to the beach and not lug along a suitcase full of batteries, and I even made an automotive application a headlight dimmer. So, I wrote a lot of construction articles. I liked construction projects. In every case, I designed and built each of these. I fabricated the projects myself, took the photographs myself, or had a friend take the photos. I would then write the article and send it in to the magazine. The magazines paid for the articles, $100 maybe. Audio magazine paid $30 a page, so if I wrote a four page article, that was over $100. During a brief period, I actually made enough money to pay for my tuition at MIT. That was back when tuition wasnt very much, of course - $1100 a year. But I actually paid my tuition off this and didnt have to get an assistantship. So, I always say that I worked my way through graduate school by writing articles. This was in the 1956, 1957 timeframe. Id sit down and grind out one article after another after another about of these were accepted. I didnt get many rejections, and when I did, I would send it in to another magazine and they would accept it. There was such a dearth of good material on transistors. Again, it was a case of my being the right person at the right time.

 

Go To Penfield Oral History, Page 5

 

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