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What is a Transistor Array?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox

A transistor array is a group of transistors that are arranged within a single semiconductor. These transistors may be connected to each other in a network or they may function independently. There are many ways that transistors can be arranged on an array. Today, computers contain millions of transistors and arranging them on arrays makes it convenient to install many transistors at once.

A transistor is used to regulate current by amplifying or dampening it. It is made of layers of a semiconductor material, such as silicon, and conducts electricity readily. There are many uses for a transistor, including amplifying sound waves, such as in a transistor radio.

Transistor arrays can contain many transistors.
Transistor arrays can contain many transistors.

While early machines required only one or a few transistors, modern computer technology requires the use of millions of transistors. These transistors are arranged on arrays with multiple circuits. The transistor array improves mounting density, allowing more transistors to occupy less space. This technology advancement has helped make computer components smaller and has allowed for the increased speed and processing power of handheld units.

A transistor array is arranged inside of a semiconductor.
A transistor array is arranged inside of a semiconductor.

A transistor array can be arranged in a number of different configurations. One of the more common arrays is a 14-pin dual in-line package (DIP). In this arrangement, transistors are placed in two rows with seven transistors in each row. Another common configuration for a transistor array is the 12-pin Metal Can package, in which transistors are arranged around the outside of a circle. Each of these arrays allows a technician to easily replace or install multiple transistors at once.

As computing technology has advanced, the need for increasing the numbers of transistors has grown. A greater number of these current regulators allows for more precise control of the electrical environment in a computer. If a transistor array is made up of a connected network, the transistors are able amplify and dampen electrical current to a greater degree. Most systems contain a combination of connected and disconnected transistors, allowing for small, fine processes and regulation of larger electrical charges.

The transistor itself was invented in 1947 by scientists Walter Brattain and John Bardeen. They spent many years experimenting with the behavior of electrons on the surface of a semiconductor, such as silicon. William Shockley continued this line of research and built a transistor using three layers of silicon. Computers in the 21st century continue to use this basic design, though many advancements have been made since the middle of the 19th century.

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Discussion Comments


@David09 - They are everywhere. In audio electronics they have RF power transistors. I don’t know much about them except that they’re used for amplification and so forth.

I do believe that the increases in technology will benefit all applications. In other words, if they can put millions of transistors on a chip, it not only benefits computers, but radio devices, smart phones and so forth.


@allenJo - Are these transistor arrays only used in modern computers? I would think that they exist in variety of applications.


@hamje32 - I think on computers the transistor acts as a switch if I’m not mistaken. The transistor switch corresponds to an on or off state, which corresponds to a 1 or 0 in the binary numbering system.

Millions of these switches can be used to create a variety of numbers and mathematical calculations. This is what makes modern computers possible from what I’ve read.


It’s amazing the number of power transistor components that they can fit on a chip. Clearly to put millions of them on a chip, we’re talking sizes that are probably microscopic to the naked eye.

That’s why these things have to be built in laboratories using advanced equipment and operating with very high tolerances and completely clean environments. The slightest speck of dust can mess up your computer chip.

I suspect that when nanotechnology rolls around in full force, we’ll begin to see billions or even trillions of these transistors put on a computer chip. There’s no telling the kind of commercial applications we’ll see then.

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    • Transistor arrays can contain many transistors.
      By: yurazaga
      Transistor arrays can contain many transistors.
    • A transistor array is arranged inside of a semiconductor.
      By: yurazaga
      A transistor array is arranged inside of a semiconductor.