“SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS” by Ralph Greenburg   


Curator’s Introduction:  With Motorola for only 2 years in the summer of 1956, Ralph had been learning about the newly emerging germanium power transistor technology when he was offered an opportunity by his manager to speak on the subject at a Western Regional IRE conference.  As it turned out, one of Ralph’s co-presenters was none other than William Shockley. Ralph’s recollection of the ensuing events is a pleasure to read.  (Note: The complete Ralph Greenburg Oral History can be found at the Transistor Museum™ homepage).     



Swimming with the Sharks


In the summer of 1956, I was happily learning all about power transistors in the new Applications Engineering Laboratory at the 52nd Street plant.  One day I was summoned to the office of Dr. Virgil Bottom who was the head of the semiconductor efforts. He quickly got to the point of the meeting and told me that he had been invited to give a paper on Power Transistors at an IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers) Western Regional Conference later in the year.  He went on to tell me that the conference was to be held in Salt Lake City on a date that conflicted with his schedule.


Dr. Bottom then requested that I substitute for him. Going to Salt Lake would be great since that was my home-town.  On the other hand, I had never delivered a technical paper.  In fact, in school I had avoided speech classes and things like debate teams where one must address an audience. I thought it over and decided it would be in the best interest of my career to accept his offer.


I submitted an outline that was accepted, and spent the next two weeks composing the talk and doing the artwork.  With today’s PC technology I probably could have finished in two hours.  Then the material was sent to a Photography shop to make 4”X4” glass encapsulated slides.


I arrived in Salt Lake via Western Airlines DC3, and the next day went to the conference room at the Hotel Newhouse.  I located the program director who told me that I was speaker #3.  Speaker #3!  I thought I was the only speaker. At the time I was a member of IRE and had attended several local meetings which always had a business session, one speaker, Q&A then cookies and punch.  Apparently regional meetings were more elaborate.



Go To Greenburg “Swimming with the Sharks”, Page 2


A Transistor Museum™ History of Transistors Publication

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