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Those of us born in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s have a unique perspective on life and technology. We grew up and watched the world change around us. We watched as video games came from the arcade and into our homes. We watched as early gaming systems became more and more powerful, and we watched as the personal computer made it’s way into our living rooms. Names like Commodore, Apple, Radio Shack and finally IBM were commanding and demanding more and more attention.
By the time children of that time frame made it their teens, they saw a completely different world than the one left behind. Transistors were making way for new IC chip technology, which meant that some of the items on our homes could be made with far fewer parts, and far smaller than the same thing manufactured only 10 years previously. At the same time though, IC chips were themselves a new growing industry. There were only a handful of locations on the planet where these new chips could be manufactured. Circuits were tiny, yet chips manufactured back then don’t come close to the complexity of new chip designs.
It was the advent of the home computer that drove IC chip production and eventually made the transistor obsolete. Think about it. When was the last time you saw a ‘New” transistor radio being sold at the local drug store, electronics store or even big chain locations? The same thing happened with fuses.
Edison and Marconi were both experimenting with radio waves and equipment during the late 1800’s using equipment that would be considered crude by today’s standards. So while the first radio receivers relied on crystals; there was no effective way to amplify their volume. And while Marconi was explaining to the world how on Dec 12, at 12:00 PM, he received the first ever Trans-Atlantic radio broadcast.
It wasn’t until 1905 to 1907 that the very first fuse radio receivers were being developed. An American named Lee de Forest, a competitor to Marconi, set about to develop receiver technology that did not infringe any patents to which Marconi had access. He took out a number of patents during the two years between 1905 and 1907 covering a variety of developments that culminated in the form of the triode valve in which there was a third electrode called a grid. He called this an audion tube; the very first tube amplified tube radio. From there it took only
Transistors were developed beginning in 1947, and within only a couple of years, the size of radios went from large cabinet sized furniture pieces that sat next to a wall, or in a corner to something that could be carried in a coat pocket. Components also shrank in size and number as transistors made their way into every aspect of our lives. And while the transistor made things simpler and more reliable, the next phase in electronics development, the IC was just around the corner.
IC chips replaced not only the transistor, but diodes, capacitors, and other electronic components. That made it possible to create entire circuits on a single layer of silicon. That small piece of silicon would then become the new backbone of the electronics frontier, and again, the children of the ’60’s were there to watch it all happen.
The first IC chips in computers were very simple in comparison to today’s’ massively compressed circuitry designs. Yet their use effectively made the home computer a reality. If not for the creation of the IC chip, computers would still be quite rare, and only a handful would probably be in use, simply because of the size requirements to duplicate the circuitry of the IC chip using standardized components. Those components were not nearly as reliable either.
Think of it this way. Your home computer has enough transistors; over 3 million in fact, that in order to create a circuit board to contain just them, not including diodes, capacitors, etc. the circuit board would be well on the way to becoming the size of the wall on the side of your home. And that is just one chip.
So yes, we children of the 60’s have seen a lot of changes. In fact there were more changes in the 1960’s alone than in the previous hundreds of years. It’s a wonder we were all able to keep up.