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The transistor is 60 years old

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Dec-2007 09:31

During the weekend I received an e-mail from Intel with some interesting tidbits about the Transistor (pictured, Wikipedia, GNU FDL), the building blocks of all sorts of electronic gadgetry.

Transistors are semiconductor devices, used as an amplifier or an electrically controlled switch, invented 60 years ago and some say it is the most important invention of the 20th century.

Transistors have found their way into many devices, but most importantly they are the building blocks of computer chips.

My Intel source tells that as transistors become smaller, we run against some fundamental problems: the smallest parts in a transistor today are only five atoms thick.

So here I list some of the facts:

- Intel’s first chip was the 4004 which came to the market in 1971 – about the same time as the Boeing 747 made its first flight from New York to London. Compared with the 4004, Intel’s new 45nm (nanometer) chips have seen a 200 time  improvement and have become 1.000 time more energy efficient.

- The original transistor built by Bell Labs in 1947 could be held in your hand, while hundreds of the new 45nm transistor can fit on the surface of a single red blood cell.

- The price of a transistor in one of Intel’s new next-generation processors -- codenamed Penryn -- is about 1 millionth the average price of a transistor in 1968.

- It is estimated that about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 transistors are shipped each year.

- You could fit more than 2,000 45nm transistors across the width of a human hair.

- You could fit more than 30 million 45nm transistors onto the head of a pin, which measures approximately 1.5 million nm (1.5 mm) in diametre.

- A 45nm transistor can switch on and off approximately 300 billion times a second. A beam of light travels less than a tenth of an inch during the time it takes a 45nm transistor to switch on and off.

And here is a timeline:

 - 16 December 1947: William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain successfully build the first transistor at Bell Labs.
- 1950: William Shockley develops the bipolar junction transistor, the device most commonly referred to as a transistor by today’s standard.

- 1953: The first commercial device to make use of the transistor is put on the market – the hearing aid. 

- 18 October 1954: The first transistor radio was put on the market and contained just four transistors.

- 1965: Moore’s Law is born when Intel’s Gordon Moore predicts that the number of transistors on a chip will double roughly every year (a decade later, revised to every 2 years) in the future, as stated in an article in Electronics Magazine.

- 1971: Intel launches its first microprocessor – the 4004. The 4004 was 1/8 of an inch by 1/16 of an inch, contained just more than 2,000 transistors and was manufactured with Intel’s 10micron PMOS technology.

- July 18 2006: The Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processor launches with the world’s most intricate product design to date, utilising more than 1.72 billion transistors.

Sandy 1 vs 0 Flintstone boy

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Dec-2007 19:35

Always interesting to read a good IT tale, as told by Sandy:

...Slightly annoyed I asked a more technical question: I was interested in what database they were running as he had just told me (i.e. Eduard) he was doing a data migration. Answer to this: "I'm moving data from one database to another using scripts. Oh, is that too technical for you? Do you understand this?"

So I patted his shoulder and told him in the most patronizing way I could muster (I did kind of enjoy calling him little boy) that he had just made a very career limiting move and that it was always a huge mistake to assume women wouldn't understand IT.

I also told him I held an Oracle certification and could code 10 times better than him and if he ever talked down to a woman in IT again I'd kill his career before it had even started (not that I have to power to do that but little Flintstone boy wouldn't know ;-)

Way to go Sandy!

Geekzone on Facebook

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Dec-2007 12:20

Last night I released a Geekzone application for Facebook that lists all the latest Geekzone news, reviews and select blog posts.

And if you are active in our forums, then the Geekzone Forums application for Facebook is for you - keep an eye on all the latest discussions in our forums.

If you have Facebook always open on your browser, this is another way to keep up to update on what is coming out of Geekzone.

Air New Zealand: your partner airline takes the prize

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Dec-2007 01:53

Blogging from a mobile is bad but not as bad as Air New Zealand and Star Alliance partner BMI. Even though the booking is on the same code they refuse to check in my suitcase all the way back home. Instead they tell me I must clear customs in London, and go through passport control twice (in and out), denying me the transit. The fact that all flights are in the same booking and with the same code does not matter. They are just unhelpful. And seeing I had no problems coming in with Air New Zealand, I can only think it's BMI's fault being an unhelpful bunch.

Mobius 2007: The swag

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Nov-2007 06:06

The first day of Mobius 2007 is almost finished: no more sessions now, only dinner ahead. We received a few goodies and for full disclosure I will list them here:

- A Sandisk 8GB Micro SDHC
- A Scooba backpack
- A Qualcomm 1GB USB memory key
- and at the end of the last session we all received a HTC Touch Dual

Thanks to all sponsors who provided this to the group!

Mobius 2007: HTC Magic Labs

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Nov-2007 04:25

Probably the most interesting session today at Mobius 2007 was the presentation by John Wang, HTC Chief Innovation Wizard - this is the title on his business card - who came to this event with no PowerPoint slides... Actually he walked around the room and asked us what we would like to hear. After getting a few suggestions, he started talking about the HTC Magic Labs, the R&D arm of the handset manufacturer. The magic labs have a chief innovation wizard, software magicians and mechanical wizards - working together to create the next big thing in smart device handsets. A very entertaining session, where the group was presented with a series of prototypes - some that will never be released, and may not be seen outside again - and for this we were not allowed to take pictures.

Mobius 2007: Windows Mobile update coming soon

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Nov-2007 00:19

Just hot out of one of the Mobius 2007 sessions: Microsoft has shown us an update for the current Windows Mobile 6 software platform. We saw a demo of an early version, running on current hardware, planned for release to manufacturers by Q1 2008. As usual we don't have specifics such as which devices will be receiving this update, or which manufacturers will be releasing it. But it certainly run on hardware currently available to consumers. More details will come at a later time - but it is not Windows Mobile 7.

Mobius 2007: reception and atendee list

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Nov-2007 23:18

Last night we had the official welcome to the Mobius 2007 conference. Here is a list of atendees with their respective sites:

Rafe Blandford
Paul O’Brien
Nghia Nguyen
Arne Hess
Guido Bonati
Remo Knops
Eldar Murtazin
Philip Berne
Shane Chiang
Paul Matt
Jenneth Orantia
Andrew Shuttleworth
Atushi Koyanagi
Mauricio Freitas
Matt Miller
Ryan Block
Jason Dunn
Michael Oryl
Judie Lipsett Hughes
Eric Lin
Vincent Nguyen
Dieter Bohn

Below you see Arne Hess (the::unwired) , myself and Ryan Block (Engadget):

The complete set of pictures is on SlashGear (where I got the list from too).

Mobius 2007: Samsung SGH-i620 in the flesh

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Nov-2007 22:48

The Mobius conference has started here in Amsterdam and we had an opportunity to introduce ourselves and talk about the devices of choice, why we prefer those, etc.

Now we are listening to Jason Langridge who is talking about some new Windows Mobile applications and devices.

The Samsung SGH-i620 is a device I've seen before when it was being tested by Vodafone New Zealand but I wasn't allowed to talk about it. So here it is now:

It is a very small slider device, running Windows Mobile 6 Standar (Smartphone, no touch screen). It is HSDPA-enabled and really a good looking device.

I don't have information on when Vodafone New Zealand will be selling these, but I understand they are available in Europe now.

The Samsung SGH-i620 is using the same "carrousel" user interface you find in the Palm Treo 500v, which will be a standard for all Vodafone handhelds soon.

Also, Jason pointed out that the highly expected Office Mobile 6.1 is now available. It is a free upgrade for users that already have Office Mobile on their devices, and it will be available for purchase from Handango sometime soon if you don't this in your device.

Mobius 2007: In Amsterdam - the flight here

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Nov-2007 18:15

And I am here in Amsterdam now, in my first visit to this city, to attend the Mobius conference (also a first).

So what was good and not so on this trip so far?

First I managed to get upgraded to the Air New Zealand business class all the way from Auckland to London. This is great because Auckland to Los Angeles is a twelve hour overnight flight, and Los Angeles to London is another nine hour flight. The good thing about the Air New Zealand business class is the individual pods with flat beds.

The stop in Los Angeles is only a couple of hours, and you are supposed to be in the transit lounge. But for the business class passengers there's the option to clear the U.S. immigration, walk back to the terminal and visit the Koru Lounge.

I immediatelty left the aeroplane, walked through immigration and customs in less than 15 minutes total - and was stopped in my tracks by the TSA.

When you travel to and through the U.S. you will be in contact with at least three government agencies: immigration, customs and TSA.

I never had problems with the first two. But the TSA... Be prepared for long queues and employees who will look at you with a blank stare and simply "not think".

When I was reentering the terminal I showed my original boarding pass and photo ID (passport). He asked where is my boarding pass. I told him "that's it - it says London Heathrow with today's date". But he wanted one issued in LAX.

So I walked back to an Air New Zealand counter, asked for a new boarding pass and the person behind the counter was amused "they should not ask for a new one".

Well, explain this to the TSA - the Air New Zealand agreement works well with immigration and customs, but not the TSA.

Anyway, I had 90 minutes to have a shower, walk and eat something more substantial in the lounge - but at the boarding time Air New Zealand warned the departure would be delayed for technical reasons.

I think I made the right decision going through directly to the lounge, because everyone else in business class started pouring into the lounge - by then I had at least two hours ahead of the crowd and was able to relax instead of rushing around trying to get to the showers, food, drinks, arm chairs, etc...

The flight to London arrived a few hours late, but by the time I had deplaned in Heathrow Air New Zealand had me booked into another flight to Amsterdam.

London Heathrow is just a mess - hundreds of people waiting for a bus to change terminals, but not enough busses going around. And lots of work in progress. And it looks old. But the pizza was good.

Arriving in Amsterdam was refreshing. The airport is modern and nice. The immigration and customs must be the totalitarian governments worst nightmare: the immigration officer looked at my passport and applied a stamp - no scanning, no fingerprinting, no digital photo, no forms to fill. The same with customs.

Another thing was the impressive size of this airport. Not even in LAX or MIA I've seen this: the aeroplane landed exactly on time and it took 15 minutes rolling on the tarmac to reach the terminal. I've been 60 minutes in an aeroplane in MIA, but not moving, just waiting in the line for the terminal to be ready.

It is cold here, but not worse than back in Wellington at the moment though. Let's see how the next week goes.

freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I work for Intergen and I'm also the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

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