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To the Digital Age

, 440 pages

4 halftones, 26 line drawings

March 2002



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To the Digital Age

Research Labs, Start-up Companies, and the Rise of MOS Technology

The metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) transistor is the fundamental element of digital electronics. The tens of millions of transistors in a typical home—in personal computers, automobiles, appliances, and toys—are almost all derive from MOS transistors. To the Digital Age examines for the first time the history of this remarkable device, which overthrew the previously dominant bipolar transistor and made digital electronics ubiquitous. Combining technological with corporate history, To the Digital Age examines the breakthroughs of individual innovators as well as the research and development power (and problems) of large companies such as IBM, Intel, and Fairchild.

Bassett discusses how the MOS transistor was invented but spurned at Bell Labs, and then how, in the early 1960s, spurred on by the possibilities of integrated circuits, RCA, Fairchild, and IBM all launched substantial MOS R & D programs. The development of the MOS transistor involved an industry-wide effort, and Bassett emphasizes how communication among researchers from different firms played a critical role in advancing the new technology. Bassett sheds substantial new light on the development of the integrated circuit, Moore's Law, the success of Silicon Valley start-ups as compared to vertically integrated East Coast firms, the development of the microprocessor, and IBM's multi-billion-dollar losses in the early 1990s. To the Digital Age offers a captivating account of the intricate R & D process behind a technological device that transformed modern society.

Ross Knox Bassett is an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University.

"A fascinating account of a critical period in the evolution of microelectronics. The author clearly documents the cost of not invented here attitudes, and the importance of close coupling between R & D, manufacturing, and marketing in fast-changing fields."

"I thought I knew all of the players and history until I read To the Digital Age. It's a fascinating and illuminating book."

" To the Digital Age is an elegant narrative about IBM's, Intel's, and Fairchild's involvement with metal oxide semiconductor development. The story is tightly told using contemporary literature and the results of interviews done by the author."

"Ross Bassett gives the reader true insight into how complex and difficult it is to create a major technological change. He does justice to the many false starts and hesitant beginnings, and to the small army of scientists and engineers, scattered throughout many organizations,who created this revolution."

"An excellent book... Presents the definitive history of how the transistor was transformed from an analog into a truly digital device."

"Bassett's book is an exciting, fast-moving, and entertaining look at the early days of the MOS device development, bringing to light the remarkable interplay of people and companies that made it a dominant electronic technology."

"Bassett's account of the development of MOS has important implications for understanding the relationships among science, commerce, new product development, and research and development."

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