What is it, really? The Transistor

Transistors make up silicon chips.  But what are they, really?  This is one of those questions that had the stink of unknowing with it.  The nose did not know.  Luckily, we found this nifty Explain-It-All Chart on the BBC News site in article about the founder of Intel, the big chip manufacturer.Transistors are basic electronic switches found in silicon chips

  • Each transistor can be switched on or off, representing a "1" or "0", known as binary code
  • All computation is done using different combinations of these two outputs to do calculations
  • The number of transistors on a chip determine its speed
  • Modern chips contain millions of transistors allowing them to execute millions of calculations per second
  • The tiny devices consist of a source, drain and gate
  • A voltage applied to the gate and drain turns the device on
  • Removing the gate voltage switches it off again

Pretty simple, right? And they've been putting more and more of those transistors on chips at an incredible rate, making our computers go faster and faster.

Pretty neat, right? Well, we thought so. Maybe not as neat as a fast car, but neat nonetheless.