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HIS 112 — The Silicon Revolution: From Lightbulbs to Transistors Everywhere

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Oct 6—Nov 10
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Oct 8
Unit: 1
Tuition: $405
Instructor(s): Arthur Chait
Limit: 30
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Registration opens Aug 22, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Oct 6—Nov 10
6 weeks
Refund Date
Oct 8
1 Unit
Arthur Chait
Registration opens Aug 22, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
All information technology and almost every device that uses electricity is dependent on transistors. Most people have never seen a transistor, but probably own billions. The history of how this happened, the technologies that made it possible, and the impact on society is the focus of this course. We will explore the links from the first lightbulbs to vacuum tubes, transistors, integrated circuits, and microchips. Vacuum tubes launched the electronics industry, making possible radio, TV, and computers with huge impacts on the economy, entertainment, civil rights, and lifestyles. Tubes ruled for decades, and the industry was dominated by established firms, but eventually, they could not meet the requirements of new applications, and the transistor was invented. Exponential growth in semiconductors changed the world. The revolution was catalyzed by Stanford, and Silicon Valley became the world’s most innovative technology region. We will review how this came about and experience some of these innovations, with students making Edison lightbulbs, sending messages by telegraph and radio, and examining samples of silicon, vacuum tubes, transistors, integrated circuits, and chips.

No background in technology is required.


Arthur Chait is the founder of EoPlex, a 3D semiconductor startup acquired in 2012. He is an adjunct professor at Menlo College, visiting professor at Universidad Francisco Marroquín, MBA advisor at Notre Dame de Namur, and mentor at Draper University. Previously, he was division president of Stanford Research Institute, senior vice president at Flextronics, president of Zitel, principal at Booz Allen, and R&D director at Halliburton. He received an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.