Triumph of the MOS Transistor

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[Recorded July 13, 2010] The MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) transistor, the fundamental building block of digital electronics, is the base technology of late 20th and early 21st century. The story of its development is one of the key chapters in the history of the semiconductor and computing industries. After being the subject of extensive research and vigorous activity among semiconductor pioneers at companies like Fairchild, IBM, RCA, Bell Labs, Texas Instruments and Intel throughout the 1960s, the MOS transistor first achieved major usage in the 1970's with DRAMs (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and microprocessors. When it became the industry standard in the 1980s, the door to the Digital Age was thrown wide open. As a result, tens of thousands of MOS enabled digital products have made their way into offices and homes worldwide, irrevocably changing the human experience. This discussion focuses on the often-difficult path to mainstream acceptance of the MOS transistor and its lasting impact on computing and communications. Technology historian, Dr. Ross Bassett, chairs a conversation with three early MOS champions and semiconductor pioneers: David Hodges of Bell Labs and UC Berkeley; Dr. Lewis Terman of IBM and 2008 IEEE president; and Les Vadasz of Fairchild and Intel. Dr. Bassett moderates the discussion and authored the definitive book on the topic: "To the Digital Age, Research Labs, Start-up Companies, and the Rise of MOS Technology" from John Hopkins University Press.