The Little Transistor that Could

The Little Transistor that Could By me (Photograph) [GFDL CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Have you ever wondered how your cell phone, TV, or computer is able to work so efficiently or work at all? What is it that helps control the flow of electric charge in those devices? Use the resources on this sheet to help you trace the history of the transistor, a device that helped transform technology in the 20th century.


In this investigation, you will explore two resources and investigate the nature of technology as it relates to the development of the transistor. A transistor is an electronic device used to control the flow of electricity. It acts as an electronic switch to open or close the flow of electricity and can be found in everything from radios to computers.

First go to The Transitor from Nobelprize.org and click on "Learn about how a transistor functions and try to build a replica." Go through the interactive slideshow that covers the history, science, and uses of the transistor.

When you are done going through the Nobelprize.org resource, you should work in small groups to explore Transistorized, from PBS.

Using The Little Transistor that Could student sheet provided by your teacher, each member of your group should answer the questions posed and be prepared to discuss them with the class.

  • What was the problem that the developers of the transistor were trying to solve?
  • Name some of the early uses of the transistor.
  • What were the advantages of the transistor over the vacuum tube?
  • Do we still use transistors? If so, how?
  • In what way has the transistor changed modern life? Give specific examples.

Knowledge Check

Write a one-page essay in response to this statement:

When we take technological innovation for granted, it's a sign of that technology's success.

You can use the transistor as an example, but also mention several other technological innovations that we take for granted.

This esheet is a part of the The Little Transistor that Could lesson.

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Esheet Details

Grades Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards