The Point Contact Transistor - The First Solid State Switch - Western Electric 2N110


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About this Artwork

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invented the Point Contact transistor at AT&T's Bell Laboratories in 1947. The transistor was not announced until 1948, and it took a couple more years to create commercially producible and stable transistors. By the mid-1950's, the yearly production of transistors was only in the thousands; today, it is in the billions of billions. Western Electric Corporation (WeCo) was Bell Lab's manufacturing arm, and this 2N110 transistor was made at their Allentown plant over sixty years ago for use in AT&T's phone networks. The Point Contact transistor was based on germanium, not silicon. Wire whiskers made contact with the germanium. When current is applied to the base, current from collector to emitter is passed or blocked.

Point Contact transistors are called such because they operate by using emitter and collector whisker wires that barely come in contact with a piece of germanium semiconductor. Because of this very precise contact requirement, Point Contact transistors were difficult to manufacture and could be very finicky in operation. Point Contact germanium diodes had existed for some time before the transistor. In fact, it was the Point Contact diodes’ unreliability during World War II that caused the US military to fund research to develop more stable and reliable Point Contact diodes for use in radar. This development effort created the research environment that brought about the invention of the transistor. Even though Point Contact transistors were ruggedized, such as the 2N110, Junction transistors eventually replaced them as they were less expensive and more reliable.


    The artwork is framed in an 11"x14" black shadow box frame, with glass. All framing materials are acid-free. A narrative about the artwork that includes the artist’s signature is placed on the back of the artwork.