EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS 

Edwin G. Millis

 

Oral History – Ed Millis

(Continued)

 

Hot transistors had higher leakage currents than cool ones, and the tests were specified at a cool temperature, like 25 Celsius.  We had been throwing away good transistors because the Bowling Alley had been reaching 90F, or 32C in the afternoons.  The employees being hot was one thing, but transistors quite another!  And so, the transistor production was moved over to the big (and air conditioned) plant at 6000 Lemmon Ave.  This happened in the late summer and early fall of 1954. 

 

Meanwhile, another group at TI was quietly making history.  The development of the first transistor radio had begun.  Pat Haggerty, far-seeing prime mover of Texas Instruments, had correctly anticipated that the time had come, technically speaking, to build an all-transistor radio to replace the vacuum tube sets that were on the market.  The tremendous effort made by the engineering team at TI to make this radio a success has been documented in a number of places, and I won’t repeat the story here.  Just let me say that after Regency introduced the TR1 in Dec 1954, TI’s transistor business really took off.  Each of the more than one hundred thousand of these radios sold by Regency had four TI transistors!  I was working in Jim Nygaard’s group in the spring of 1955 (Jim had recently graduated from Texas A&M and had been added to the TI radio team in 1954), and he put together the “neat deal” of the decade.

 

 

      

 

 

Oral History – Ed Millis

(Continued)

 

He got each of us, about fifteen people altogether, a set of Regency TR-1 parts, less only the transistors and the resistors. We even got to choose the color of the case.  Then he acquired the necessary transistors and resistors for us and we built our own Regency radios.  I still have mine.  Bless you, Jim, it’s a treasure.

 

The production of transistors for radios ramped up at an impossible rate and Nygaard’s transistor test equipment group that I was assigned to was working night and day in an attempt to keep up with the demands of production.  The problem that I was assigned was finding a better way to test the popular 2N185 transistors that were used in pairs, as a ”push pull” output. This required the two transistors to be very similar in electrical characteristics, like a “matched pair”.  Since, at that time, to quote one of the engineers “We couldn’t hardly make one alike”, matching up our very broad, shotgun-type distribution was an almighty tiresome chore.  Lots of ladies sat poking 2N185s in test sockets and then putting them in little piles on the tables.  And then taking these piles, and sorting them into smaller piles.   We all had piles.

 

So I built a much-needed machine that would match up the 2N185s automatically.  The operator would load a transistor in the test sockets and push a “GO” button.

 

Millis Oral History, Page 4

 

COPYRIGHT © 2001 by Jack Ward.  All Rights Reserved.  http://www.transistormuseum.com

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