Electronic – Why is a Transistor called a Transistor


Okay now I know how a transistor works, but how can it transfer resistance? I am not getting it because all I know about Transistors is that "A Transistor is used to control the flow of current in a Secondary circuit using a Primary circuit." But how does it transfer resistance?

Best Answer

John Pierce named it, according to a PBS documentary in 2000. He worked with Shockley at Bell Labs.

Before Shockley sandwiched three semiconductor layers together, the only kind of transistor was the point-contact...uh, not "point contact transistor"! That word wasn't invented yet. "Point contact solid state amplifier"? But Shockley's invention became "transistor" for "transfer"+"resistor", but what sense, you ask, does that make?

Current flowing between emitter and collector is a "transfer" of charge. It is not a good conductor - it is a resistor.

Also, vacuum tubes were commonly characterized by "trans-conductance" as a measure of gain: output current divided by grid voltage. Transistors were supposed to be opposite of tubes in many ways - more reliable, use far less power, rugged not delicate, etc. The opposite of conductance is resistance.

There's no particular logic in characterizing the gain of a transistor by some output voltage over some input current, but for naming a sexy new gadget who cares. Today, and for the last few decades, bipolar transistor amplifier capability has been characterized by beta which is a pure number, current over current, and JFETs are characterized by, um... transconductance. (Also called "transfer admittance")