History of Electronics.
Military equipment, toys, communication, home electronics, computing, cars, satellites and others. This is only a partial list of products, which contain electronics. Actually electronics won our world. We wake up with the ring of electronic clock, drink coffee from a electronic coffee machine, work with computers, learn by using video conferences, listen to the music from a sound system and go to sleep while adjusting our electronic watch for tomorrow morning. It is hard even to think that only a hundred years ago our world seemed different at all from this point of view. But how did the electronics revolution begin? Which research and discovery was the basis for this modification? Why was it so fast, relatively to other developments in history? I will try to answer these questions in this observation.
Theoretical and experimental studies of electricity started in the 18th and 19th centuries enabled the development of the first electrical machines and the wide use of electricity. During that time the first theory was founded and the rules of electricity was formulated. The event of identification of the electron in second half of 19th century by the English physicist J.J. Thompson and the measurement of its electric charge in 1909 by the American physicist A. Millikan were the point of turning the electronics evolution separately from that of electricity. Another coarse of interest to electronics was the observation of the American inventor Thomas A. Edison. He noticed that the current of electrons would flow from one electrode to another, if the second one was with relatively positive charge. This discovery led to the development of electron tubes. Electron tubes became very useful for manufactory at that time. X-ray tube, the radio signal detectors and transmitters, and the first power systems were based on electron tubes. The development of the vacuum tube and later the three-electrode tube by adding the grid between the anode and the cathode (Negative and positive electrodes in the tube) improved the characteristics of the tube by far and made it more useful for different electronic applications.
The first half of the 20th century was the era of the vacuum tubes in electronics. Using the tube permitted the development of radio, long-distance telephony, television and even the first computers. The most known one was the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) completed in 1946.
The first and the second World Wars gave a considerable boost to the way the electronics science has advanced. Governments of rival countries invested a lot of money in the technology of military industry. On other hand they wanted the quick solution and were looking for long-range developments. Therefore the varieties of vacuum electron tubes were the central device in the electronics system of that time.
There are several limitations to the tube. Its big size, slow working paces, bad accuracy, and very hard and high cost of production it. These limitations of the tube motivated to the “Solid-State” revolution with the invention of the transistor in 1947 by Bell Laboratories scientists: John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William B. Shockley. The vacuum tube hasn’t disappeared from the world until today. All kind of displays (except the liquid crystal one), laser systems, some measurement equipment include the tube and there is no alternative product to be used instead of the tube until now.
Recently we have witnessed the biggest event in the history of electronics – the invention of the semiconductor devices. It made a real revolution in the world of electronics. The semiconductors are small, accurate and low cost devices. Transistors and diodes are made of crystalline solid materials, which have electrical properties that are capable of variations, an extremely wide range, by the addition of little quantities of other elements like resistors, inductors and capacitors. Early semiconductors were produced using germanium as the material, but since 1960 silicon quickly became the preferred material, because it was less expensive and it could operate in wide range of the temperatures. For instance, silicon diodes work at temperature up to 200°C (392°F), whereas germanium diodes cannot work above 85°C(277°F).
Since 1960 transistors have quickly supplanted vacuum tubes. Electronic system became more complex and smart. Computers included hundred of thousands of transistor each (This without counting of other devices). This fact, together with the need for compact, lightweight electronic missile guidance systems, led to the invention of the integrated circuit (IC). This invention was the result of independent research of Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments Incorporated in 1958 and of Jean Hoerni and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation in 1959. Early ICs contained about 10 individual semiconductor elements but the their number rapidly increased during next ten years. In 1970 the number was 1,000 in a chip and the result of hard work of physicists, electronics and mechanical engineers was developing and producing of first microprocessor with memory interface in 1971. This event was the beginning of computerization and smart digital electronics.
0 and 1. Those two small numbers changed our world. Computers, data communication, the Internet understand only two numbers, 0 and 1. Digital electronics (Microprocessors and it’s surrounding) based on Boolean algebra that represent the numbers to the base of two. Since 1970 until today the digital ICs have been in constant development. Everywhere we hear about new microprocessor, which are that quicker, more complex, smarter and less expensive than the previous one. We can state that ever since the first computers electronics were improved it self. The calculation became simpler. The measurement equipment becomes more accurate.
In conclusion, I can say that the science of electronics is one of most important science today. We all witness the influence of electronics on our life in good and bad side as well. The process of development was relatively quick and interesting. The best brains of 20th century were the of this process. But the history of electronics has not ended, as we see, and our using of electronics is the best evidence for it.
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