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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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5.5 billion transistors?

4 September 2017

I fondly recall the first time I held a transistor in my hand.

It was a small, black glass package with three leads and it bore the inscription "Mullard OC71". Wow.. a *real* transistor!

I don't recall how much this marvel of (then) modern technology cost but I do recall that it was an awful lot for a lad of my age and I was in awe of the things this tiny device could do.

Up until this point, all of my "tinkering" with electronics had been done with valves... glass bottles with many pins and a thirst for high voltages -- the kind of high voltages that would make a young lad exclaim in loud swear-words whenever I was unfortunate enough to get my conductive self between the anode and ground.

Now, at last, I could build stuff that only needed one of those flat 4.5V batteries containing 3 AA-sized zinc-carbon cells -- batteries that disappeared many years ago from the catalog of options.

Later on, I upgraded to an AC126 and AF117 -- both of which were also Mullard devices and offered vastly improved performance but I'll still never forget my first transistor and what an effect it had on my life.

But to today...

I find it kind of funny that one single solitary transistor could have changed my own life so much -- and set the course for what was to become a long career in electronics and related technologies.

Well no, I don't find that odd... what I *do* find odd, by way of comparison, is the fact that Huawei have just announced a new processor for their smart phones and this chip claims to have 5.5 billion (yes... that's right... BILLION) transistors in it.

What's odd?

Well one single transistor changed my life but I expect that the 5.5 billion transistors that people are going to be carrying around in their hands, just over half a century later, won't change their lives one single bit.

I guess this shows just how much the world has changed in 55 years or so.

Now we will have hand-held devices, each of which has as many transistors as their are people on the face of the planet -- and we'll just think "ho hum".

My mind is a boggling! :-)

Gosh, I hope that kids today are able to enjoy the same feelings I got as a kid when I first touched amazing technology -- but I doubt they will.

Is there a modern-day equivalent of the "transistor moment" I experienced?

Handing an 8-year-old an iPad probably doesn't cut it. Sure, they'll find it interesting and fun to use -- but will it be a watershed moment?

I'd like to hear from readers -- what have been the moments that have shaped your life, from a technology perspective?

What single instant produced the most excitement or awe?

Or have you been unfortunate and never experienced one of those "moments"?

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