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Showing 1-10 of 19 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 33 reviews
on May 30, 2012
The authors described the complex interplay of personalities involved in the process of creating the transistor. The inventors (William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain) worked together the following ways:
1. Bardeen was a deep thinker, and seldom spoke. Whenever he did say something, EVERYONE LISTENED.
2. Brattain was a very "hands on" person and he was resourceful about creating experiments that would further develop Bardeen's concepts.
3. Shockley was the visionary, who understood the vast commercial potential for the transistor.

I enjoyed visualizing the juxtaposition of these personalities with those from another book: "The Man Behind the Microchip", by Leslie Berlin. In this case the major personalities were: Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove. Like Shockley, Noyce was a visionary, but they had polar opposite personalities. Shockley took credit for every one else's work whereas Noyce always gave others the full recognition they deserved. Everyone hated Shockley and everyone loved Noyce.

Other books that tell similar stories, for different time frames are:
1. "The Invention That Changed the World", by Robert Buderi
2. "The Idea Factory", by Jon Gertner
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on June 26, 2010
In the '50s I tried to understand transistor theory but just couldn't get it. This book helped me to see the simple fact that text and teachers of the era didn't get it either. Finally, in the '60s at Fairchild R&D I did indeed get it, and a whole lot more. Not all that long before I joined Fairchild, the company had started shipping the world's first commercially available integrated circuits. From those days on up until reading this book there were still a lot of questions gnawing at me, detailed questions not only on the origin of the transistor and learnings associated with it but on how Shockley's name somehow miraculously started appearing with those of Brattain and Bardeen on its invention.

This book, Crystal Fire, answered my questions and a lot of other questions that I should have been asking. But if you read this book, be sure to fill in some of the gaps by searching out on the web a follow-up paper also written by this book's author, Michael Riorden, "The Silicon Dioxide Solution". In this paper the role of Jean Hoerni of the traitorous eight is finally made clear. His name doesn't often come up prominently in discussion of integrated circuit history, but without his invention of the planar process while at Fairchild, Fairchild would more than likely not even be mentioned today in IC history discussion.

So .. Crystal Fire.. Who'd have thought the authors of a book this interesting from a, "people who were involved" perspective, could also explain, so clearly in near layman's terms, solid state physics principles and knowledge progression from the early years on up through invention of the transistor - and beyond. It takes a good degree of topic knowledge to bring the complex to a level that is understandable to those who are not involved in the complex, while at the same time writing a truly good read.
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on March 3, 2011
The legend of Silicon Valley has long lived in the lore of techies everywhere. However, we are into the 4th generation since William Shockley setup camp in Palo Alto--so there are many who may not have heard the tale.

If you can answer the following:

1. Why did William Shockley (late of Bell Labs in New Jersey) choose Palo Alto as the site of his semiconductor venture?
2. What were the names of the traitorous eight?
3. What is the genealogy of spin-off's from Shockley Semiconductor?
4. Why did Bell Labs attorneys insist on omitting Shockley as a co-inventor on the original transistor patents?

Then you probably don't need to read this book. Otherwise, you might find it interesting.
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on June 6, 2017
A good read. It went into a lot of background.
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on May 4, 2017
Thank you.
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on October 27, 2009
Myself, like thousands of others in the electronics field, had of course known about Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain; and had thought that their contributions to the transistor's invention followed that order. This book sets the record straight, and this fact alone makes it worthwhile reading.

As mentioned by other poster, the book does contain some technical mistakes, but one is not buying this book for the exact science; rather, it is the fascinating story of the people and events that led to the discovery and growth of one of the XX century's greatest inventions.

There are of course, many contributors and events to the art and science of semiconductors who are barely mentioned, but I feel that would cause the book to become unwieldy and tedious. Rather, it whets your appetite for follow-up reading on related subjects, like T.R.Reid's "the Chip".
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on June 23, 2016
If you are interested in recent history and electronics especially. . . Well worth the read. . How the transistor came together and the men behind it. . Made for one of the significant leaps that enabled the big screen TV, computer and internet and many things we take for granted today!
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on August 19, 2014
An excellent documented reconstruction of the birth of the transistor in a sequence of conceptual ideas, experiments, discoveries, and adaptations with relevant details including the social aspects in the team. All in the historical context of the preceding diode development and industrial policies. A very valuable contribution to the history of technology and a good input for various reflections on technological developments.
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on May 4, 2012
I am not usually captivated by the written word, but this one did it for me. Being around though the waning of the vacuum tube and the ramp up of the transistor made this book especially intriguing. After working in industry for 40+ years as a development engineer, I found the politics and personas to be remarkably similar to what I have observed and participated in. We are not alone! The book is a remarkable blend of technical information as well as the personal dynamics of the players. Reading this is time well spent for any engineer. Thank you Bell Labs!
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on April 29, 2015
This is the second time I have read Crystal Fire. Several years ago I read it, and never forgot how good the book was.
I recently purchased it again, because the invention of the transistor is such a profound and good story.
If you are interested in the history of technology, this book is an important and enjoyable read.
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