The technology breakthrough that enabled the modern computer occurred shortly after the end of World War II, when researchers at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey created the first working transistor on December 16, 1947.
William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain later received a well-deserved Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking work.
What started with one transistor has grown at an astonishing rate.
The Semiconductor Industry Association estimated that in 2008, a total of 6 quintillion transistors were manufactured (that’s a six followed by 18 zeros).
That was only a minor down payment on the future.
Consider the steady evolution of chips from Apple and Intel: In 1978, Intel’s wildly popular 8086 processor contained 29,000 transistors, an immense leap forward in desktop computing.
The first Pentium processor was introduced by Intel in 1993, with 3.1 million transistors.
In February 2010, Intel launched an Itanium chip with 2 billion transistors.
By 2015, the Apple iPhone 6 contained an Apple “A8” microprocessor with 2 billion transistors, in a piece of equipment small enough to carry around in your pocket.
By one estimate, Apple’s product sales alone were launching about 100 quintillion transistors into the market on a yearly basis as of early 2015.
Worldwide sales of semiconductors hit $333.0 billion in 2014, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, projected to rise to $344.5 billion in 2015.
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