EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT RCA

Bernard N. Slade

Oral History – Bob Slade

(Continued)

Oral History – Bob Slade

(Continued)

 

The Survey of Transistor Development articles were really very well done.  How did you come to write these?  Was RCA supportive of your active efforts to publish?

 

I think the magazine, Radio and TV News – the publisher, approached me and asked if I would do that.  At that time, I was already publishing.  One of the advantages of being the first engineer in a new field is that there is so much to be explored, and so much to be discovered, that it wasn’t too difficult  - it wasn’t much of a challenge to find out new phenomena, and so I was able, during the 1950, 51 era, I wrote several papers, and I developed several new types of transistors, in fact, I think it was about that time I developed the high speed transistor, which was first used in an experimental television. (The RCA TV used TA165s and the higher speed TA166). NOTE: The first paper Bob wrote was in the 1950 RCA Review, “High Performance Transistor”.

 

The one, (at RCA) who encouraged me the most was Ed Herold, who headed the research activity.  He edited everyone of my papers, was tremendously helpful in guiding me.  I learned an awful lot from him, and eventually I went to Princeton to work with him.  He was one of the giants I worked with over the years.  They sent me to conferences to give these papers, they helped me publish them, and so that really gave me a wonderful start. 

 

Thanks very much, Bob.  This has been very informative. Any concluding comments regarding your transistor work at RCA?

 

 

Those were some of the most enjoyable days I had in my career, frankly, because of the opportunity they gave me to do what I did.  Today, if you are an engineer out of school going to work for Intel, it would take you a long time to make a major contribution; you’d probably be doing some work which was very, very limited in terms of its scope, because you’d be taking a tiny piece of the process, for instance, and working on it.  But here, there were no processes to make these things – everything was new.   And so, if you had some originality and some inventiveness, and serendipity, it was easier to invent. 

 

 I might give you one other little insight, and that is: RCA never became a major factor in the semiconductor industry.  It was a factor, and it was a preeminent electronic tube manufacturer, but it was never a match for Intel or TI.  I often wondered why.  I later did some consulting work for McKinsey and Company on the semiconductor industry as to why certain companies, like Philco or RCA or Raytheon or GE never became the major domos in that area.  I discussed this in one of my books, “Compressing the Product Development Cycle”.

 

Curator’s Note: Bob Slade left RCA in 1956 and had a 28 year career at IBM, with major contributions to the early semiconductor program.  This IBM work is detailed in a companion Oral History.  Use the link below to review additional RCA material as well as a list of Bob’s early publications.

 

Go To Slade Oral History, Page 10

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