EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT MOTOROLA

“FLUB-A-DUB” by Ralph Greenburg   

 

Curator’s Introduction:  As solid state technology replaced vacuum tubes in many applications in the 1960s, Ralph describes an interesting and less than spectacular success for semiconductors.  (Note: The complete Ralph Greenburg Oral History can be found at the Transistor Museum™ homepage).        

 

 

FLUB-A-DUB

 

Prologue:

 

Possibly you read an article in the Business section of the Arizona Republic, which stated that Hector Ruiz  (Motorola) was sponsoring MIT to research Smart refrigerators and washing machines that would further enhance the role of semiconductors into Home Appliances.  Presently there are innumerable semiconductors spread around household appliances and automobiles but back in the mid ‘60s there were a few in automobiles and virtually none in appliances.  This story takes you back in time to that era.

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As many of you are aware the transistor was invented in late 1947 and held great promise as a viable component in electronic circuits.    I joined Motorola in May 1954 as a member of a small application engineering team devoted to learning about transistors and how to use them in various equipments.  Motorola had a small development effort and an assembly line making small signal Germanium transistors, the XN-1.  These early transistors lacked performance and cost too much, thus their “functional worth” couldn’t match that of tubes and sales of transistors were very weak.

 

But within the next two years the industry developed processes that improved frequency response and also came up with power transistors of which Motorola was a leader with a new package, which eventually became the industry standard TO-3 and a producible device that evolved into the ubiquitous 2N176.  Two events followed rather quickly.  The Automotive industry went from 6-volt batteries to 12 volts and suddenly AM transistor auto radios were practical, with Motorola at the leading edge.  This was the first erosion of vacuum tube sales in a mass market.  John Q. Public was unimpressed-- the radio still sat in the dash with two knobs and a slide-rule dial, it sounded the same as the vacuum tube versions. 

 

 

Go To Greenburg “Flub-a-Dub”, Page 2

 

A Transistor Museum™ History of Transistors Publication

COPYRIGHT © 2008 by Jack Ward.  All Rights Reserved.  http://www.transistormuseum.com/

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