How millions of transistors switch on and off to register the digital 1 and 0 in the microchip?

A human brain consists of nearly 100 billion cells regarded as neurons. These are super tiny switches that allow people to think and recall things. Computers also contain what seemingly are billions of brain cells called as transistors. They switch signals on and off like neurons and perform at high speeds at around billions of operations per second.

Transistors are essential in our daily lives. Much of the advancement people felt in the past 60 years stems down to the invention of transistors in the 1940s. Without them, engineers may not have created and produced incredibly small digital products. It replaced massive vacuum tubes in radios, televisions, and other electronic devices. Thanks to its miniature size, digital cameras, home computers, and cellular phones came into existence.

One of the computers made in the pre-transistors era, the renowned ENIAC or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer weighed around 30 tons and was composed of 17,000 vacuum tubes. True enough, the invention of transistors brought significant changes, allowing us to enjoy smaller machines.

While Germanium transistors undeniably helped commence the computer age, it was the silicon transistors that fully revolutionized and initiated the technological industry in California’s famous Silicon Valley.

George Teal, a Texas Instruments scientist, invented the first silicon transistor. Not long after, manufacturers looked for ways to mass-produce silicon transistors, which was then more dependable and cheaper than the earlier germanium transistors.

Not surprisingly, silicon transistors became a perfect fit and worked incredibly for the production of computers. Transistors, through smart engineering, were able to help computer machines execute more significant numbers of calculations in a significantly shorter period.

The primary switch operation of transistors is what powers computers to finish large and complicated tasks. But how does it really work?

Well, the design of a transistor is what allows it to function as a switch. Through small amounts of electricity, it will enable the control of a gate with a much larger power supply, seemingly like how you use a valve to control a supply of water.

Transistors generally have three parts: the base, the collector, and the emitter. The base acts as the gate controller for the larger supply. The collector itself is the larger electrical supply. On the other hand, the emitter serves as the passageway or outlet of the given power supply.

By sending different levels of electric current from the base, it opens the flow of current through the emitter from the collector. This process is used to produce the binary codes of 0 and 1. Millions of transistors require a voltage threshold to open or close the collector gate: five volts to turn OFF, and less than five volts to turn OFF.

That is what makes transistors reliable electronic switches, that turn signals on and off billions of times per second. However, transistors don’t function individually as they compose an integrated circuit or a microchip. Here millions of transistors work in concert to aid computers in making decisions and perform complex tasks very quickly.

What’s great is that more research is being done about the amazing functions of transistors – who knows what more can we expect in terms of advancements transistors can still offer in the foreseeable future.

More Readings:
Transistor (Wikipedia)

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