The development of the transistor and integrated circuits is one of the most important technological achievements of the twentieth century. Radio, television, long-distance telephones, and computers were developed using vacuum tubes and electrical relays, but with the development of the transistor and integrated circuits, electronic devices became smaller, more efficient, more reliable and more affordable. Digital electronic devices can now be found everywhere: in home appliances, automobiles, ships, airplanes, wristwatches, calculators, super computers, desktop computers, portable computers, communications satellites, robots, automated factories, recording studios, home theatres, the film and television industry.

The semiconductor industry began shortly after World War II when researchers at Bell Labs (now Lucent) in New Jersey, USA, invented the first primitive transistors. Their discoveries arose from research into the atomic structure of a class of elements known as semiconductors.

The simplest semiconductor device is the diode. It has many applications in electronic circuits because it permits electricity to flow through it in only one direction.

In the 1950s, when transistor radios first appeared, the most common form of transistor was the bipolar transistor. It could be used as an amplifier or as an electronic switch. At that time each transistor had to be packaged in its own small container with three wires or leads which were soldered together to make complex circuits.

By the 1960s, following the lead of Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor, semiconductor manufacturers were developing techniques which allowed them to create several transistors on one piece of silicon - the integrated circuit. With dozens, then hundreds, and today millions of transistors crammed into one tiny piece of silicon, family of more energy efficient transistors - field-effect transistors - also had to be developed.