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No. 142, May 2002

Electronics, the future?

Electronics, the future?

Electricity was well known in the middle 1800's. Faraday had put its use on a sound footing with the laws of electromagnetic induction in the 1820's. Maxwell worked out the equations governing an electromagnetic field in the 1850's and then just before the turn of the century Thomson measured the ratio of the charge to mass of the electron in what was the prototype of all cathode ray tubes. Millikan put a value on this charge in 1909 and the electron was born. Lee de Forest added a grid of wires close to the filament and showed that it had a strong effect on the flow of electrons. and the era of valve electronics had begun.

Electronics using valves developed rapidly. Radio communication was established and then television. The CRT improved rapidly with the advent of Radar in the '39 war and in the 1950's television came to most households.

The first transistor was invented by Schockley, Bardeen and Brattain in 1947 at the Bell Telephone Labs. and early production devices were available in the fifties. Production seemed to be a hit and miss affair because 'out of tolerance' specimens were sold via Henry's Radio with such designations as 'red spot', 'white spot' which we used to make transistor radios in the early '60s. This was the era of the transistor.

The first integrated circuit was produced in the early '60s by Texas Instruments and Fairchild but it was not until 1965 when the 741 became readily available that integrated circuits started to take over as the main active component in circuit design.

Circuit complexity of solid state components steadily increased until finally a complete binary digit processor came along with the 8002 in the late seventies. Now, a complete processor with eight million digital switches is available on one chip.

We know all this, you scream, why are you repeating it. The answer, fellow members, is that electronics seems to advance through 'eras', there have been valve, transistor and integrated circuit eras. Now I think a new 'era' is beginning. The PIC, an all purpose programmable circuit is here. EPE our favorite magazine, is facing the same decision - how much programming to print.? Perhaps the Internet will help. The Editor insists that he will maintain a balance. We wish him well...