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Tuesday
Feb122013

Transistors

The other day we watched American Experience "Silicon Valley", and it got us thinking that The Colonel should share his thoughts on transistors, and cars. This morning he is having a cafe latte with us, lets pick his memory.

Q- Colonel what do you remember of transistors?

A- Loyola College in Montreal, transistors, physics, the novelty of transistors replacing vacuum tubes.

Q- Like transistor radios? 

A- Sort of, but transistors were opening new frontiers which were not available with the old school circuits with wires and vacuum tubes. 

Q- Alternators had diodes (early form of a transistor)

A- Yes..they did, and it made a huge difference in the charging system, and not running down batteries, on the premise that the battery would start the vehicle, and the alternator would provide the electrical power once the vehicle was running.

Q- Then it migrated to the ignition system with "transistor ignition".

A- Yes..the old school distributor with points, condenser, coil, morphed into a wonderful system with higher voltage, no point float, although it was still a distributor. 

Q- It did away with the dwell meter used to adjust points.

A- Yes...the trap door on the side of GM distributors, dwell gauges, and dual point distributors. 

Q- Back in the day...it must have been huge.

A- It was...and imagine when the early "black boxes" started appearing on engines. 

Q- Must have been disconcerting for many folks.

A- The challenge back then was not so much the black boxes, and the infamous "check engine light", but the reality that there was no proper equipment to test the vehicles. The scanners, analysers were as obsolete as dwell meters.

Q- If a check engine light turned on, it must have been a major undertaking to resolve.

A- Here is a "black box" that triggers a problem that turns on the "check engine light" and a mechanic basically has a manual system of flow charts to deal with the issue...it was slow and time consuming. It could take a day to turn off a check engine light.

Q- Precisely, the technology went into the vehicle, and not to resolve the issues that the technology would create. In addition to the technology being proprietary to each manufacturer. 

A- Is it fair to say that the transistor with time created new horizons, new technology for vehicles, and proprietary diagnostic tools for each manufacturer. 

Q- How reliable is the technology?

A- Very reliable, surprisingly very reliable, mind it alway does the same thing over and over.

Q- Similar to what Fairchild provided for the rocket launches, moon shots, moon landing, in many ways similar, and probably more complex and sophisticated on a vehicle today.

A- Precisely...transistors, integrated circuits, lines of code, and very reliable, although it took a few years to achieve high levels of reliability. Think of this...alternators, transistor ignition, fuel injection, oxygen sensors, ABS brakes, and we can keep on going...

Q- Are we moving towards the Virtual Technician?

A- That is the logical / expected next step.

 

 

 

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