Electronics Engineering HeroesFollow article
There are many pioneers and inventers that have made their names in the world. There are also great numbers of scientist that any high school child can name. We are blessed with great names in history but my question is where are all the electronics engineers?
Names like Einstein and Galileo have made their mark on the world, however engineers are less well know. To all that read this you will all know that Faraday, Pascal, Babbage and a like are world famous. However when looking deep down for an electronics engineer that had changed the world it’s more difficult. I will also guess that many of you are all thinking of names of great engineers old and new. But how many of them would be know by Jo public? The closest I could get when talking to other was Steve Jobs. Ok not well known for his tinkering in a garage with early computers, more the guy who owns Apple but it’s a good start!
So in order to find the true heroes that are making a difference I decided by searching back and looking at one very important moment in time. The point where a small step for physics has made a massive leap forward for electronics. This happened in 1947 some 27 years after Marconi’s work with radio with three chaps call John Bardeen from the USA, Walter Brattain who was born in China and William Shockley from good old England. Now depending on your history knowledge you may notice the odd name or know why all three became so important. That’s because in 1947 they invented the humble Transistor. However I would not call any of these people electronics engineers, great physicist but hardly like me or possible you and the jobs we do each day.
When I researched these guys a little more I found that all their hard word on inventing the first transistor took place at Bell Labs in the USA. Now Bell labs in quite an interesting place in itself because this place has produced a string of Noble prize winners since the 1920’s. Now I’m guessing there are more than just a handful of people working there and that we only hear about the big names. Names like Kernighan and Ritchie for their work on developing the C programming language. One name that has been though Bell Labs is Morris Chang who was there for a few years as well as being at Texas Instruments in 1958, TI being the first place to produce the Transistor. Morris Chang this year will receive the IEEE Medal of Honour just as Shockley and Bardeen have in the past. However his influence on electronics comes from him being the Chairman and CEO of ‘Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’ – The largest silicon foundry in the world. Unfortunately for our search for the greatest names in electronics, Morris Chang has not made his name as an electronics engineer despite his impact on us all.
So feeling that there are no real superhuman electronics engineers that have changed the world I went back to the speeches of 1956 when our trio of co-inventers of the transistor were presented with the Noble Prize. The speech of interest did not come from the physicists but from Professor E.G. Rudberg of the Noble Committee who said this.
Doctor Shockley, Doctor Bardeen, Doctor Brattain. The summit of Everest was reached by a small party of ardent climbers. Working from an advance base, they succeeded. More than a generation of mountaineers had toiled to establish that base. Your assault on the semiconductor problem was likewise launched from a high-altitude camp, contributed by many scientists. Yours, too, was a supreme effort - of foresight, ingenuity and perseverence, excercised individually and as a team. Surely, supreme joy befalls the man to whom those breathtaking vistas from the summit unfold. You must have felt it, overwhelmingly. This joy is now shared by those who laboured at the base. Shared, too, is the challenge of untrodden territory, now seen for the first time, calling for a new scientific attack.
We cannot take anything away from the work they had achieved, however it’s clear that their challenge was overcome with the help of others at Bell Labs. Since 1947 electronics has come a long way with new and wonderful designs almost daily. Not because of any one person or small group but because of you and me, the electronics engineers who are the ones building the base camps. To the great people who climb the Everest of electronics they have my gratitude and respect but it’s the engineers whom everyday battle with their own mountains to climb that I do salute. The real superheroes of our industry.