Daniel Grushkin

The Idea Factory (Businessweek)

The greatest invention of the Information Age began with a betrayal. Around Christmas 1947, physicist William Shockley holed himself up in a Chicago hotel room. He feverishly filled pages he would later glue into his official notebook at Bell Laboratories, then the most important innovation hub in the U.S. The pages contained the design for something called a junction transistor—a grain-sized sandwich of silicon and germanium that would miniaturize the circuitry in telephone systems, radios, and televisions, and ultimately pave the way for computers. Shockley secretly planned to upstage his teammates at the lab, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, who had already invented a more primitive transistor but had shown it only to a small group of directors. At a Bell conference a month later, Shockley leapt out of his seat and announced his invention. Bardeen and Brattain sat in the audience, dumbfounded.