Imagine your world without portable computers, GPS, or the internet. Does it make your palms a little sweaty? Would you be able to get through the day?
We’ve become a society completely reliant on instant access to information. And it’s all thanks to a little invention called the transistor.
Arguably the most significant development since we discovered fire, if it weren’t for the transistor we ‘d still be living in the 1950s, electronically speaking.
How did this one invention change everything? Without transistors, what would our daily lives look like? And what impacts would there be on our society as a whole?
Here’s what would happen if the transistor was never invented. Discovered in 1947, the transistor, is essentially a tiny chip that allowed electronic devices to get smaller, and process way more information.
It’s changed our society in pretty well every way imaginable: transportation, government, finance, manufacturing, it’s affected them all.
If the transistor was never invented, our world wouldn’t be nearly as connected as it is now. How would that impact the human experience?
To understand just how important transistors are, we should probably know what they do. Transistors act like a switch, in the sense that they can turn things on and off. These switches control the flow of electric currents, but instead of using mechanical parts, they use voltage.
When a positive voltage is applied, the switch is turned on, and the electric current is allowed to flow through the transistor.
These switches can turn on and off about a billion times per second, enabling all kinds of binary logic operations, the basics of computing.
Add to that, the fact that you can fit about a hundred million of them on a pinhead, and you’re looking at devices that can work together to process information extremely quickly, in small packages.
So how important is this ability in our everyday lives? Well, let’s start by looking at the basics. When you wake up in the morning, what are some of the first things you do? You probably check your phone, and maybe turn on the coffee maker? Well, both of those are out of the picture in a world without transistors.
You’d have to make your coffee the old fashion way, telephones would all be land-line, and if you wanted to contact anyone while you were out, you’d have to rely on a payphone.
On your way out the door, there’d be no alarm system to set, no automatic garage door opener, and no electronic ignition on your car; which means more pollution for the environment.
Our idea of entertainment would be flipped entirely around too. We’d still have giant tube TVs, limited to basic cable, and mostly in black and white. Forget bringing your favorite tunes on your morning jog, or listening to podcasts on your long commute, unless you wanted to carry a giant radio along with you.
But beyond just the everyday inconveniences, there would be much more significant implications on our society’s development.
For one thing, we probably wouldn’t have made it to the moon. Because we’d be stuck with large bulky technology that’s prone to failure, space exploration in general would be very limited.
More critical though, medical advancements would move a lot slower, meaning our population would be vulnerable to a lot of things that our modern society doesn’t even think about anymore.
And perhaps the most significant thing we’d be missing in a world without transistors is the internet. Without the internet we’d be stuck in a far less globalized society, we wouldn’t be sending data from one side of the world to the other in a matter of seconds.
News wouldn’t be reported as quickly, and you wouldn’t have access to so many diverse opinions. Education would be much more limited, and less interactive. Our entire economy would look completely different; there’s no chance that Apple, Microsoft or Amazon would have the global impact they have today.
It’s pretty crazy how one tiny piece of technology can change the world. Who knows, maybe one day something will come along that makes the transistor look archaic.
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