Despite his immense contributions, Shockley never became the millionaire he wanted to be. He recruited first-rate scientists and engineers, but many defected to start or join other more successful firms.
Neither Brattain nor Bardeen had anywhere near Shockley’s visionary appreciation of the transistor’s vast commercial potential. Both continued doing basic research – Brattain at Bell Labs and Bardeen on a variety of solid state physics topics, especially superconductivity, for which he won a second Nobel Prize.
Almost as important as the transistor’s invention are the techniques crystal growing and zone refining, which allow fabricating large single crystals of ultra-pure silicon and germanium. Without these crystals, the industry would not exist.
The transistor led to a startling transformation of technology and even culture and the nature of work – computers (main-frame and then personal), modern televisions, the iPod, and cell phones.
The new Information Age comes with its own distinct challenges to human freedom and livelihood. The crystal fire has brought with it an intensity and immediacy of life in which many things become obsolete soon. Some people unable or unwilling to deal with the unceasing change widens the divisions between different peoples on a national and global scale. For as fire illuminates, it also consumes.
Some other challenges not mentioned in the book are privacy, cyber-crime on a global scale, and the proliferation of advertising.
This is my final post about Crystal Fire.