Updated: 05/01/2023 by Computer Hope
Examples of a transistor.

Developed by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley at the Bell Laboratories on December 23, 1947. The transistor (short for "transfer resistance") is made up of semiconductors. It is a component used to control the amount of current or voltage or used for amplification/modulation or switching of an electronic signal. The picture shows several examples of transistors.

The transistor is the primary building block of all microchips, including your CPU (central processing unit). It is what creates the binary 0's and 1's (bits) your computer uses to communicate and deal with Boolean logic. When placed in different configurations, transistors form logic gates, which can combine into arrays called half adders that also combine into full adders.

Transistor history

In 1954, IBM announced it was no longer planning to use vacuum tubes in its computers and introduced its first computer that had 2000 transistors. Transistors replaced vacuum tubes and today are found in virtually all electronic devices.

As of 2022, the Apple M1 Ultra processor has 114 billion transistors, the highest count for any consumer-level processor. However, the title of most transistors in a single-chip processor goes to the Wafer Scale Engine 2, a deep learning processor developed by Cerebras, with 2.6 trillion transistors.

What technology might succeed transistors?

Transistors are still used in all electronics and likely will be for the foreseeable future. However, there are some promising technologies, such as carbon nanotubes being developed by IBM, graphene sheets, and black phosphorus that may one day replace the transistor.

Computer abbreviations, Electronics terms, Hardware terms, IC, Moore's Law, Power terms, Solid-state device, Switch