“SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS” by Ralph Greenburg   




The director handed me a program and I went into a state of amazement.  Speaker #1 was Dr. Bernard Oliver, Director of research for Hewlett Packard who would discuss “Trends in Equipment Research”.  I then noted speaker #2 and my emotions went from amazement to a state of shock.  The speaker was none other than Dr. William Shockley, president of Shockley Laboratories, who would talk on “Semiconductor Theory”.  Dr, Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor, considered to be the Father of the Semiconductor Industry and I had to follow him with my pathetic paper on Power Transistors.  Speaker #4 didn’t improve my mood; the speaker was a lady engineer (very rare in those days) who would espouse on the topic of “New Design Breakthroughs for Yaggi and other UHF Antennae”.


Dr. Bottom had dropped me off to paddle with a Sea full of sharks where I must swim or be devoured.  I was not feeling very friendly towards Dr. Bottom as I sat down to contemplate total disaster.  Someone sat next to me and said “Hi! I’m Barney Oliver”.  Gee whiz a doctor with a common touch.  I introduced myself and then, Barney dug an elbow in my ribs and whispered “Dig that engineering chick, what’s she doing here?” He was directing his remarks at the lady engineer at the end of the row who was Speaker #4.  Dr. Barney director of chauvinism. 


The proceedings started and the two Doctors did not live up to expectations. The HP talk was more like a sales pitch and did not stir much response from the audience.  Dr. Shockley faced a blackboard and with chalk in hand started to scribble equations that only fellow solid-state physicists would understand.  He discussed each equation with his back to the audience and ended the talk by turning around and stating “That’s all you need to know about solid-state physics” and left the room with no Q&A.


I had gone from feeling sorry for myself to feeling sorry for the two doctors.  Of course it was then my turn and now with more confidence I managed to give a reasonable talk with only a couple of miscues.  When I called for questions almost every hand shot up and I managed to answer most.  One question stumped me, “Where can I buy a Motorola power transistor?”  I hadn’t a clue.


In the mid 50s hardly any textbooks or college courses addressed semiconductors on an engineering level.  And even the most basic information on the use of transistors had a high interest level.




Go To Greenburg “Swimming with the Sharks”, Page 3


A Transistor Museum™ History of Transistors Publication

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