Some call it a driving force that leads to paradigm-shifting innovations on par with inventions like the light bulb, the radio, and Al Gore’s internet.
Others call it a debilitating mental disorder that leads to extremely clean hands, the hoarding of old JC Penny catalogs, and keeping an unsustainable average of 1.5 cats per square foot of your home.
The missus says I’m obsessed. I’m not sure if it’s a compliment or a cry for help.
I’m not obsessed with the things a healthy male is usually obsessed with: fast cars, loose women, self-mowing lawns.
Though I admit to more than a keen passing interest in that last item.
No, the focus of my laser-like interest (I refuse to call it an obsession) is transistors.
And are not these noble devices worthy of our attention?
Without transistors, the computer or phone you’re reading this post on would not be possible.
OK, maybe it would be possible, but then your computer would be really slow and its steam-powered operation would leave your home so humid and hot as to be inhospitable to life. Not to mention the carbon footprint of your coal-fire furnace used to generate the steam!
And clearly, such a phone would be so large as to be impractical as a ‘mobile’ device.
That’s a taste of the world we’d live in devoid of the mighty transistor. Horrible, isn’t it?
But wait, it gets worse:
Abacuses the size of a room.
A spike in eyeball trauma due to carelessly operated slide rules.
No Wincest fan-fic.
OK, the Wincest fan-fic would exist, but only the author would have access to it, because the internet wouldn’t exist!
Right now, those of you familiar with the Sam and Dean Winchester incest genre might be thinking, “Maybe we should build a time machine to go back and stop the invention of the transistor.”
Bad news, kill-joys. Without the transistor, there can be no time machines!
So for good or bad, the transistor and all the wonders and horrors it has wrought are here to stay.
I love my transistor collection. It is, if I may say so myself, almost as magnificent as I am.
I don’t mean to boast, but I actually have one of the paper clips and razor blades used by Bardeen and Brattain to create the first point contact transistor in 1947.
It still has flakes of germanium on it! Squeeeee!
The missus tends to get very flushed and throw out her comments about being obsessed whenever I take these items out of their hermetically sealed, environmentally controlled vault to admire them. I can’t tell if she’s angry or aroused, but as my amorous advances that immediately follow such outbursts always result in me curled up on the couch with a bag of ice between my legs, I’m going to go out on a limb and say she’s confused.
Don’t worry. In moments like this, to comfort myself, I spend that cold night on the couch cuddled up to the crown jewel of my collection:
The Fairchild spFDB69N12.5 ‘super transistor’.
Only twelve were made, and none ever appeared in a product catalog.
They were custom-designed and built as part of the imaging system on the Viking I and Viking II Mars landers.
The prefix ‘sp’ has long been rumored to stand for ‘secret program,’ but while this has made the history of that vaunted transistor all the more tantalizing and raises questions about the true extent of the Mars Viking missions, no corroborative facts have ever been, pardon the pun, unearthed.
Two each were put into the landers on Mars, two were put in the Earth-bound prototype, five were destroyed in an unfortunate lab fire, and one was removed from that lab before the fire to cover up its theft was started.
Through a circuitous and shadowy route that I cannot disclose here, and involving far larger amounts of money than I ever had legitimate claim to, I obtained that final transistor.
To preserve the spFDB69N12.5 for my heirs and my heirs’ heirs, it is embedded in a cube of Lucite™. To prove its provenance, this block of acrylic glass has the fingerprint of Neil Armstrong on one side. I hear his finger was quite badly burnt when his kidnappers pressed it to the still hot block of Lucite™, but such is the cost of history.
And traceability, as anyone who has worked for a government contractor knows.
This transparent thermoplastic cube which protects my Precious has the added benefit of rounded corners, so if left in the freezer for a few hours, it can serve as an excellent substitute for the bag of ice.
And that makes my night on the sofa one of pure bliss.
So I ask you, discerning readers, how is that in any way, shape, or form tantamount to obsession?
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