APS News

APS Commemorates Birth of the Transistor

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APS past-President John Hopfield (right) looks on while President of Bell Labs, Jeong Kim, signs the official APS register of historic sites.
On December 14, APS President (now past-President) John Hopfield visited Bell Labs in New Jersey, where he had been a postdoc in the late 1950's. His purpose was to present a plaque, on behalf of the APS Historic Sites Initiative, honoring the invention of the transistor by (in alphabetical order) John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley. “I am immensely pleased to be here as the representative of the American Physical Society in the proceedings today,” Hopfield said at the presentation ceremony. “Many years ago, I was a kid interested in electronics, and built radios based on a single vacuum tube, normally a triode. Elegant little machines, with this single triode serving simultaneously three functions, as the RF amplifier, the detector or demodulator, and the audio amplifier. A vacuum tube triode would cost about $1.00. How preposterous it would have seemed that someone would tell me that I would have, in my laptop computer, 10 billion dollars worth of vacuum tube-equivalents, inflation non-adjusted. Multiply both numbers by 10 to account for inflation over the years, and that does not alter the amazement.” Hopfield concluded his remarks with “I am personally so happy to be part of an occasion commemorating the past, honoring the present, and looking to the future of Bell Labs. And honoring and commemorating three distinguished members of the American Physical Society.”

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