Weekend tech reading: The transistor turns 65

By on December 16, 2012, 2:09 PM

Happy birthday, transistor The transistor, the ubiquitous building block of all electronic circuits, will be 65 years old on Sunday. The device is jointly credited to William Shockley (1910-1989), John Bardeen (1908-1991) and Walter Brattain (1902-1987), and it was Bardeen and Brattain who operated the first working point-contact transistor during an experiment conducted on 16 December 1947. Yet this now ubiquitous device -- these days more as an element in silicon chip design than as a discrete component -- has a history that goes back to the mid-1920s. The Register

The ‘Mad Men’ economic miracle Three months ago, "Breaking Bad" cut off its fifth and final season on a maddening cliffhanger. Just as the D.E.A. agent Hank Schrader realized that his mild-mannered brother-in-law was actually a coldblooded meth lord, the show’s rabid viewership also realized that it would need to wait until the summer, when the season resumes, to find out what happens next. For fans like me, it has been and will continue to be an interminable wait. Cliffhangers may have been around for more than a thousand years...but no one has monetized them as brilliantly as cable networks. The NY Times

Are the rich old men ruining Kickstarter? At the time of writing, Peter Molyneux's Project Godus, a new god game, has raised £247,044 towards its £450,000 goal on Kickstarter. There are 10 days left to go. Meanwhile, over in Cambridge, Peter's buddy David Braben has raised £699,729 out of £1.25m to make Elite: Dangerous with 24 days left to go. Neither project is guaranteed to be fully funded, but the point is that these grand old men of the British games industry have attracted almost £1 million of support from random people on the internet by promising to return to their roots. Eurogamer

Self-driving cars can navigate the road, but can they navigate the law? This year has been full of big news about the progress of self-driving cars. They are currently street legal in three states and Google says that on a given day, they have a dozen autonomous cars on the road. This August, they passed 300,000 driver-hours. In Spain this summer, Volvo drove a convoy of three cars through 200 kilometers of desert highway with just one driver and a police escort. Cadillac's newest models park themselves. The writing, one might think, is on the wall. The Verge

You and your precious 24 fps Way, way back in April 2011, before the critics started spewing insults in their snooty, elvish way, director Peter Jackson posted a note to his Facebook page under the heading "48 Frames Per Second." He wanted us to know why he’d used a special format in the filming of The Hobbit. It was a way of "future-proofing" the production, he explained. The 24 fps standard was selected somewhat arbitrarily in the 1920s, so that everybody’s films could accommodate a soundtrack. But with digital production and projection... Slate

All-seeing headset gives you 360-degree vision Eyes in the back of your head -- you know you want them. And soon you may get your wish, simply by slipping on a headset that gives you a 360-degree field of vision. Called FlyVIZ, the system was designed by Jérôme Ardouin and colleagues at the Grande École d'Ingenieurs Paris-Laval in France. It captures images from every direction around the wearer, then transforms them into something our measly human vision system can comprehend. The system is at prototype stage... New Scientist

Google lands futurist Ray Kurzweil Google, like many top tech companies is always taking on new employees -- but in landing Ray Kurzweil this week, the search giant hasn't added your run-of-the-mill new hire. A brilliant technologist who also happens to be one of the world's most renowned futurists, Kurzweil announced on his blog Friday that he'll be joining Google on Dec. 17 as a director of engineering. The 64-year-old author and inventor said he will focus on machine learning and language processing projects in his new role. PCMag

Op-ed -- A plea to Google: Protect our e-mail privacy We recently learned that even the director of the CIA, David Petraeus, can’t seem to secure his private e-mail conversations properly, and over the past month tech commentators have responded to that discovery with a familiar litany of depressing advice: Privacy doesn’t exist online, e-mail is as public as a postcard, and don’t say anything on the Internet you wouldn’t want to read in the newspaper. Civil libertarians, meanwhile, have urged the need for legal reforms... Ars Technica

Intel wins first round in patent fight that threatens chips Intel won the first round of a patent-infringement case that some lawmakers said may threaten jobs at the company’s U.S. manufacturing plants. The world’s largest semiconductor maker didn’t infringe the patents of closely held X2Y Attenuators LLC, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge David Shaw said in a notice posted on the agency’s website. The next step is a possible review of the judge’s findings by the full commission... Bloomberg

Is it worth investing in a high-efficiency power supply? If you’ve gone shopping for a power supply any time over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed the explosive proliferation of various 80 Plus ratings. As initially conceived, an 80 Plus certification was a way for PSU manufacturers to validate that their power supply units were at least 80% efficient at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of full load. The 80 Plus program has expanded significantly since the first specification was adopted. ExtremeTech

Linux and Intel 386 processors will part ways Earlier this week Linus Torvalds took away support for 386 CPUs from the Linux kernel. He agreed with the position of Red Hat engineer and Linux kernel developer Ingo Molnar to drop support for Intel's old 386 microprocessors. For Linux users, the world is not coming to a halt. All it means is that the 386 DX33 chip will not be able to run in future versions of Linux, just in existing versions of the kernel. Phys.org

Twitter has started rolling out the option to download all your tweets Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has promised in recent months that an option for users to download an archive of all the tweets from their accounts would be available this year. At least for some, this long-awaited feature has arrived -- and we’ve had a play with the archive browsing tool. The first report of the new option that we saw in the wild was from user @Psilosophy... TNW

The web we lost The tech industry and its press have treated the rise of billion-scale social networks and ubiquitous smartphone apps as an unadulterated win for regular people, a triumph of usability and empowerment. They seldom talk about what we've lost along the way in this transition, and I find that younger folks may not even know how the web used to be. So here's a few glimpses of a web that's mostly faded away... Anil Dash

Nvidia receives DARPA contract worth up to $20 million for high-performance embedded processor research NVIDIA has been awarded a contract worth up to $20 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to research embedded processor technologies that could lead to dramatic improvements in the ability of autonomous vehicles to collect and process data from on-board sensors. Nvidia




User Comments: 2

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captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I think it's important to note that that transistor was invented under the umbrella of Bell Laboratories!

So yeah, you have Ma Bell to thank for it.

misor misor said:

Lol, when I was little, the transistor I knew was a "transistor radio" powered by two to four eveready D batteries.

then a local electric cooperative was established connecting our neighborhood with the national electric grid, which then paved the way for our neighbors to buy/use electric sony radio cassette recorder/player with FM.

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