Transistorized Life

My transistorized life began in late 1969 with a self-directed learning experience in the form of an electronics project. Tired of having to spend so much money replacing tubes in my electronics project set every time they burned out, I decided to transistorize for the first time. Borrowing my father's RCA Transistor reference manual, I built a transistorized amplifier. A few years later I carried an RCA battery-powered radio and a 12-string Gibson guitar with me when I hitchhiked for the first time in my life 888.8 miles from home. Within three days I was at my destination and the batteries in the radio were almost dead but I was amazed by the impact that technology had on me as I traveled. It was a comfort to listen to it on the road.

The five transistors inside that radio were measured in fractions of an inch. The latest tech I haul around in my pocket these days has 11.8 billion transistors measured in the 5 nanometer range within its CPU alone. Other devices I currently use on a daily basis also contain billions of transistors. Life without gobs of transistors would seem unimaginable–even intolerable–if I had not lived the first decade and a half without them. I hope to have many billions more of them in my life as I age and become increasingly less mobile and homebound. But if they all disappear or stop working, it won't be the end of the world for me. Life will go on happily.

However, without an explosive increase of transistors in my life, I might never have landed in a career I enjoyed or might never have enjoyed my hobbies as much as I have over the decades since building that little transistorized amplifier. Transistorized tech has enriched my life beyond my wildest expectations first pondered as I listened to the sounds boosted by it.

Obtained in the mid 1980s, my first personal computer's CPU contained 29,000 transistors and that count steadily ramped up to 134,000 transistors sported by the 80286 CPU of the PC I was using by the time I graduated from college. Throughout my career as a software engineer, CPU transistor counts increased at dizzying pace as their size and power requirements decreased considerably. The smartphone I carry is the most powerful transistorized tech I use now with a CPU containing 11.8 billion transistors, even more so than the CPU of my desktop computer (10.5 billion) and CPUs of the two tablets I use each day (3.3 billion and 10 billion). Now retired, aside from using these devices for online shopping in these never-ending days of raging pandemic surges, they're all used with great delight for entertainment as tools in hobbies. But if they all stopped working, no big deal. As I learned as a child before transistors, life doesn't have to be transistorized to be enjoyable.

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