From the Editors; The Solid-State Century; Scientific American Presents; by Rennie; 1 Page(s)
Proving the adage that great things come in small packages, transistors have grown only more important as they have shrunk. At the clunky stage of their early development, they seemed like mere alternatives to vacuum tubes. Even so, they led inventors to design more compact versions of radios and other conventional gadgets. When transistors could be integrated by the thousands and millions into circuits on microprocessors, engineers became more ambitious. They realized that they could mass-produce in miniature the exotic, room-filling machines called computers.
With every step down in transistor size, technologists found inspiration and capability to build microelectronic devices for jobs that were not only once impossible but inconceivable. Today transistors and other solid-state devices live inside telephones, automobiles, kitchen appliances, clothing, jewelry, toys and medical implants. This is the Information Age not only because data processing is so common but because it is increasingly possible to cast all problems as matters of data manipulation--to see the world as a frenzy of bits waiting to be tamed.