TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: JFK Assassination

Re: JFK Assassination
2 Dec 2005 08:24:47 -0800

Scott Dorsey wrote:

>> According to the IBM history, at first transistors were made by hand
>> -- someone jiggled the cat whiskers and watched a scope until the
>> proper effect was created. Obviously very expensive and error prone
>> way to go.

> These were point-contact transistors.

At that time they were experimenting with different kinds of
transistors -- pnp, npn, the semi-conductor material, etc. The IBM
history "IBM's Early Computers" by Bashe et al goes into some detail
on this.

BTW, in the late 1940s they had trouble with vacuum tubes for digital
applications. What would work fine in audio was not good enough for
digital. IBM spent a lot of time developing specs and considered
making its own tubes, but the tube makers were able to meet the needs.

> For the most part, the Mesa process that made mass production of
> consistent transistors possible was the result of research done at
> Fairchild.

IBM spent considerable efforts on this, the above book describes it.
I do believe, however, it was more on the packaging of the transistors
on cards than making the transistors themselves; IBM bought
transistors from others at that time. But IBM did research the
manufacturing process too.

> It is true that there was a lot of work being done by the IBM T.J.
> Watson Research center on transistor fabrication. And it is true that
> all of that research got used by IBMs competitors long before IBM.
> This is, however, pretty much the story of everything that was
> developed at Watson, from sealed hard disks to RISC. IBM was never
> good at developing products out of their own research.

Well, the IBM history (and also "IBM's System 360" book) might have a
bit of bias since they were written by the research people. However,
it does seem that Tom Watson Jr drastically improved the research
environment and many useful products came out of it. They invented
the disk drive, and developed cost-effective packaging for
semi-conductors (SMS cards and later SLT chips) that allowed IBM to
take the lead of the industry from a losing position.

I do recommend the two above books on IBM (published by MIT Press).
Much interesting technical information. There's a third, "Building
IBM" by Emerson Pugh which is a good summary history of the company.

> Yes, but don't forget that the Univac Solid-State computer came out
> before IBM built anything practical. Univac was using Philco
> transistors of somewhat doubtful characteristics as I recall.

When did the "Solid State" computer come out? Was that the "Univac

Philco made its own computers, too. At some point Ford Motor Co took
them over and the name Philco has faded from the scene. They made
consumer electronics but I didn't think their quality was as good as
other brands.

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