While there has been quite a bit made of the 60th anniversary of the transistor this year (it was announced by Bell Laboratories on 1 July 1948), 2008 also marks the 100th anniversary of the first device capable of amplification.
The patent for what became known as the “triode” meant that for the first time, it was possible to amplify electrical signals, a feat that would have significant rammifications for worldwide telecommunications.
It enabled the first audio amplifiers when “talkie” movies first arrived in 1929. It enabled radio transmitters and receivers to achieve greater range and was itself the forerunner of the transistor.
While the world would be a completely different place without the transistor, we wouldn’t have had the transistor at all if it hadn’t been for the discovery of the ability to control a large current with a smaller one 40 years before.