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in “ Tech news in brief“, 
November 29, 2022.

75th anniversary of the transistor

75th anniversary of the transistor.

© iStock/Spiria.

Back in December of 1947, a group of scientists at Bell Labs invented the first functional transistor. Without it, IT as we know it would probably not exist. Today, the transistor is the building block of all electronic devices, and microprocessors contain them in ever greater numbers. In 1971, the Intel 4004 processor featured 2,300 transistors. Twenty years later, the Pentium 4 had 42 million transistors etched into its silicon. Today, the number of transistors on each processor is in the billions. Apple’s SoC M1 Ultra, for example, features 114 billion. But a physical limit will be reached with “etchings” approaching 2 nanometers (process planned for 2024 by TSMC and Intel). So unless the surface of the silicon gets larger, there’s a limit as to how much etching it can hold. Researchers, therefore, are exploring new ways to cram even more transistors in a limited space, by piling them in multi-layer processors, for example. Happy birthday, dear transistor!

Transistors per processor.

Transistors per processor © IEEE Spectrum.

IEEE Spectrum, Samuel K. Moore, “The transistor at 75.”

IEEE Spectrum, Samuel K. Moore, David Schneider, “The state of the transistor in 3 charts.”


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