HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

FROM THE FIRST TRANSISTOR TO THE WONDERFUL ZENITH TRANSISTOR RADIOS

A good place to start the story is after World War II. The story begins not at Zenith™ Radio but at Bell Laboratories™ the technical development part of AT&T™. AT&T wanted to retain its monopoly a transcontinental telephone communications. The war had seen tremendous growth of long distance service needs. Now that the troops were returning home, many were not going to settle down next door to mom and dad. After WW II, the society mobility that had begun before the war resumed at an accelerated pace. People had a pent-up demand for consumer goods after war shortages. Wartime manufacturing retooled to make these desired consumer products. Good jobs could be found in urban areas. As the need for new housing mushroomed, suburbia was born. With children no longer near parents, the need for long distance telephone service grew. Also, industry had the same need for reliable long distance communication.

Long distance was handled by vacuum tube amplifiers and relay switching. Telephone equipment terminals had a number of problems. These shortcomings were going to severely hamper AT&T's ability to deliver vastly increased, reliable, long distance service at a reasonable cost. Vacuum tubes were prone to failure and used a lot of power. The power was dissipated as heat which required even more power to generate cooling. AT&T wanted to keep its business monopoly. To do this, a new technology was desperately needed. Click here to view a nice Website featuring information about the telephone relay switching technology. Also, Click here to view another Website with nice pictures of early relay equipment.

MERVIN KELLY
Fortunately at the time, AT&T had visionary person named Mervin Kelly, the Director of Research at Bell Labs. Kelly knew vacuum tubes would not be the way of the future. World War II electronics had shown promise in the use of something called a semiconductor. Kelly was interested in Bell Laboratories inventing and owning the patent to new technology, rather than having to pay royalties. Kelly is probably little known today. However, he had the vision for telephone communications growth and the requisite technology requirements. He is the person that got the "ball rolling" on semiconductor development. Also, he knew that Bell Labs had a bright physicist called William Shockley that would be a ideal person to head up new research. Once appointed, Shockley brought to his team Bell Lab's Walter Brattain, an experimental physicist who was a real "hands on guy" in building projects The complete the first tier of researchers, Shockley hired theoretical physicist John Bardeen who came from the University of Minnesota.