Picking Solid State And Tiny Electronics

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Since there never has been the slightest doubt about electronics being the biggest growth area of our day, the question is obviously one of choosing the right stocks at their right prices. This historical piece offers some great insight.

In order to do the right picking, you would do well to know precisely its areas of coverage, its current stage of development and its probable frontiers of tomorrow based on its already discernible trends.

The word "electronics" scarcely covers its widening areas of operation. Its application has invaded such a broad spectrum of modern science and technology that every branch of applied science is, in a sense, electronic. Chemistry, physics, biology, these are only a few of the fields electronics has entered.

In turn, such new sciences as solid-state physics have led to the great expansion of the electronics industry by creating a whole new family of electronic devices.

Integrated solid-state circuitry is the latest development in the industry's ever-accelerating trend toward miniaturization. In essence, an integrated solid-state circuit is a solid-state device in the form of a tiny piece of semiconductor material or a thin film which functions as a circuit in place of many electronic components. It will amplify or control electronic current just as ordinary electronic circuitry would but without the latter's interconnecting components and other complexities. The other purpose is to upgrade the basic unit in a system from a component to a function, i.e., amplifying, switching.

Just think of a single piece of crystal or a thin film doing the job of hundreds of components, and you have some idea about the vast example, it may mean wrist television for ladies. Perhaps employers will soon have trouble in keeping up the efficiency of employees, each with a wrist television alongside the typewriter or comptometer, especially when global color television, relayed by orbiting satellites, becomes reality.

I cannot recall any other single development, even in revolution-prone electronics that can compare in potential implications with the Westinghouse announcement in December 1959 of its ability to grow a whole circuit in a tiny block of semiconductor material. It needs no electronics specialist to visualize what this means.

For instance, right now, large computers are composed of hundreds of circuit boards, each with a whole assembly of capacitors, resistors, etc. Each circuit board performs a single electronic function such as amplifying or switching. Now, each of these circuit boards will be replaced by a single piece of crystal or thin film.

Integrated solid-state circuitry seems to have already outdistanced another tiny wonder, the tunnel diode, which itself was unknown in this country less than three years ago.

Until then the transistor was king of electronic miniaturization. It was a Japanese physicist named Leo Esaki (a consultant with IBM) who first discussed the tunnel diode in January 1958 in a technical journal, Physical Review. The tunnel diode does most of what the transistor does, only better, faster and cheaper.

At first, Dr. Esaki's article barely caused a stir in this country; then a few electronics firms began to grasp the tremendous potential. Only about the size of a pinhead, the tunnel diode is now rated by General Electric to be up to 100 times faster than the transistor in some applications. As small as a hundredth the size of a transistor, a tunnel diode needs as little as one percent of the power to perform the same functions. It is simpler in structure and operates efficiently at extreme temperatures as well as high frequencies.

Keep your eye out for tiny wonders because they may bring in big bucks. Just as back when this piece was written, electronics continue to make waves today.

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