Fifty Years of Heroes
and Epiphanies; The Solid-State Century; Scientific American Presents; by Zorpette; 1 Page(s)
Human beings crave legends, heroes and epiphanies. All three run through the history of solid-state electronics like special effects in one of Hollywood's summer blockbusters.
To begin with, solid state has an exceptionally poignant creation myth. Just after World War II, John Bardeen, a shy, quiet genius from a Wisconsin college town, and Walter Brattain, an ebullient, talkative experimenter raised in the backwoods of Washington State, assembled the most mundane of materials-a tiny slab of germanium, some bits of gold foil, a paper clip and some pieces of plastic-into a scraggly-looking gizmo. Ungainly as it was, the device was arguably one of the most beautiful things ever made. Every day of your life, you use thousands, if not millions, of its descendants.