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Are transistors the fundamental components of all computers?


Achilles
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1 minute ago, John Cuthber said:

There were mechanical computers before that.

The abacus, and the slide rule, for example.

Telex was an early online computer. It was fully mechanical. I suppose Enigma and other coder/decoder tools were technically mechanical computers as well..

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5 hours ago, rangerx said:

1 and 0 gates are just switches.

Logic gates are made from transistors, though. So I would say the answer that the question is “yes”. (Given the other replies, I should caveat that with “modern electronic logic gates/computers”)

 

Edited by Strange
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On 07/09/2018 at 4:08 AM, Achilles said:

Anything that requires user input. Is transistors at the heart of it, acting as on and off switches which equate to values (most commonly 1's and 0's)?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xpk67YzOn5w

I largely agree with Strange. However...

 

 

The Josephson Junction is a (not very) handy esoteric alternative.

Quote

memory cell access times are of the order of 10 - 100 ps while access energies are of the order of 0.1 – 5 aJ.

Then there's

Quantum Computing with Atomic Josephson Junction Arrays

1 and 0 at the same time (sort of) - two for the price of one. (Liquid helium not included.)

 

Tunnel diodes, although quite fast and quantumy, never became fashionable as switches for some reason.:(

 

'Transistor' is a bit of a generic name. If they'd been invented after bipolar transistors, I suspect valves would have been called 'vacuum state field effect transistors.':)

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Hi. Let's go slowly. The question can be interpreted in more context.

A context is the current moment, the date in which we live. Today technology is beginning to design and build systems that process information without using the typical resources of electronics. An example that I remember is achieving with bioproteins and other biomolecules the functions that microprocessors do today. And something else. With biomolecules facilitates the attempt to combine the virtues of binary logic with the virtues of fuzzy logic. When the doctor asks where it hurts, touch a point. And you say a little more to the right. In binary logic there is no formulation of a little more to the right. In fuzzy logic it is possible.

In the context of computers that use electronic resources, the transistor has been and is a major player. Something like the helmsman on an old ship. Without demerit of the rowers and those who performed other tasks, no old ship could have navigated without a helmsman.

Why did the transistor become very important? Imagine a large tank and located quite high. The tank feeds a pipe that carries water down. Inside the pipe there is an adjustable damper, which allows to control the output flow.

5b93f7d70482b_Transistor-2.png.a93ece5ce6a8b60b1bb47c89965b711f.png

The tank pressure is exerted in a direction parallel to the pipe. The displacement of the gate is perpendicular to that pressure. Then, the energy needed to regulate the flow is much less than the energy carried by the liquid. The case is analogous to pushing a car. All the weight of the car is exercised vertically and is supported by the street. You push in a horizontal direction and you only need to overcome the friction of the axes.

The transistor has 3 terminals, called collector, emitter and base. In the hydraulic analogy, the collector is comparable with the side of the tube connected to the tank. The emitter is comparable to the outlet of the tube. And the base is comparable with the gate that regulates the flow. That is why the control energy, applied to the base, is much lower than the energy conducted between collector and emitter.

When you need linear control, there are circuits designed to achieve it. A linear circuit achieves that the current between collector and emitter differs from the control current in only one detail. The value. If the control current is sinusoidal and has a given frequency, the current between collector and emitter is also sinusoidal and has the same frequency, with greater amplitude. This is the base of the amplification that uses transistors.

The possibility of controlling the current between collector serves for many applications. The computer data can be encoded as pulses of electrical current. By combining transistors it is possible to design circuits capable of processing logical operations, some simple and others very complex. The transistor allows to use low voltages and has a control terminal that demands very little energy. For that reason it is a remarkable electronic resource.

Edited by quiet
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5 minutes ago, quiet said:

An example that I remember is achieving with bioproteins and other biomolecules the functions that microprocessors do today.

Citation needed.

5 minutes ago, quiet said:

In binary logic there is no formulation of a little more to the right.

Really? So an electronic steering system (controlled by a microprocessor) can only steer hard right or hard left, nothing in-between? News to me.

5 minutes ago, quiet said:

The transistor has 3 terminals, called collector, emitter and base.

Not the majority of transistors in microprocessors, memories and most of the other components in a computer.

If you don't know what you are talking about, it may be better not to say anything.

 

Edited by Strange
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24 minutes ago, Strange said:

Citation needed.

Really? So an electronic steering system (controlled by a microprocessor) can only steer hard right or hard left, nothing in-between? News to me.

Not the majority of transistors in microprocessors, memories and most of the other components in a computer.

If you don't know what you are talking about, it may be better not to say anything.

 

Citation needed: https://www.technion.ac.il/en/2013/05/technion-scientists-develop-an-advanced-biological-computer/

So an electronic steering system (controlled by a microprocessor) can only steer hard right or hard left, nothing in-between? : The electronic steering system operates in discrete steps. As you said, there is nothing between one step and another. The steps are small enough to offer the driver the feeling of continuous control, although strictly not so.

Not the majority of transistors in microprocessors, memories and most of the other components in a computer: Help me understand the concept related to the phrase, to respond.

Transistor - 2.png

Edited by quiet
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19 minutes ago, quiet said:

Thank you. But that is nowhere near "the functions that microprocessors do today"

It is also a binary system.

There is nothing close to a computer today:

Quote

In March 2013. a team of bioengineers from Stanford University, led by Drew Endy, announced that they had created the biological equivalent of a transistor

...

Many examples of simple biocomputers have been designed, but the capabilities of these biocomputers are very limited in comparison to commercially available non-bio computers. Some people believe that biocomputers have great potential, but this has yet to be demonstrated.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_computing#Notable_advancements_in_biocomputer_technology

 

19 minutes ago, quiet said:

So an electronic steering system (controlled by a microprocessor) can only steer hard right or hard left, nothing in-between? : The electronic steering system operates in discrete steps. As you said, there is nothing between one step and another. The steps are small enough to offer the driver the feeling of continuous control, although strictly not so.

So, you were wrong. You can steer "a little more to the right".

Quote

Not the majority of transistors in microprocessors, memories and most of the other components in a computer: Help me understand the concept related to the phrase, to respond.

Bipolar transistors have emitter, collector and base. These are rarely used in digital circuits. These mainly use MOSFETs which have source, drain and gate terminals.

Edited by Strange
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44 minutes ago, John Cuthber said:

Actually, it's exerted in all directions.

 

Yes, it is exercised in all directions. But the plate that regulates the flow is flat and receives force caused by the pressure in a single direction, which is perpendicular to the force necessary to displace the plate. If someone had the obligation to develop this kind of obvious detail before saying a word, we would need centuries to be able to converse.

35 minutes ago, Strange said:

Thank you. But that is nowhere near "the functions that microprocessors do today"

It is also a binary system.

There is nothing close to a computer today:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_computing#Notable_advancements_in_biocomputer_technology

 

So, you were wrong. You can steer "a little more to the right".

Bipolar transistors have emitter, collector and base. These are rarely used in digital circuits. These mainly use MOSFETs which have source, drain and gate terminals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24688733

Is MOSFET some type of transistor?

M etal
O xide
S emiconductor
F ield
E ffect
T ransistor

Edited by quiet
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55 minutes ago, quiet said:

Hi. Let's go slowly. The question can be interpreted in more context.

I agree with this since the whole question is badly posed and therefore futile.

Quote

Are transistors the fundamental components of all computers?

 

The short answer is no, since the title specifies all computers, although I suppose we could argue definitions of 'computers'  and 'the fundamental components' till the cows come home.
That is, of course without discourse on the subject of what is included as a 'transistor'.

Even Strange's suggestion of restricting things to the current day will lead to the same answer since there are still purely mechanical (specialist) computers in use eg the antenna impedance calculators.

http://www.rfcafe.com/references/electrical/cardboard-engineering-science-slide-rules.htm

These are strictly speaking a form of analog computers.

 

Another view is to consider the question "is it possible to build a digital computer (microprocessor) without using any transitors?"

Again the answer is yes - although it would be very slow and cumbersome.

All the registers in the processor could be replicated by sliding cards in and out of a window array.

Thus all mcroprocessor instructions could be replicated and sequential does thereby executed.

 

Finally, of course, the issue of the fundamental components.
 

All the transistors in the world combined would be worthless without an output device.

Imagine your smartphone with neither screen, microphone, speaker, nor internal antenna.

 

:)

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36 minutes ago, quiet said:

Is MOSFET some type of transistor?

Yes.

25 minutes ago, studiot said:

The short answer is no, since the title specifies all computers

True. But I suspect a lot of people nowadays don't know that there types of computer exist or are possible. So his "all" probably means "all digital electronic computers" (of course, we will never know).

26 minutes ago, studiot said:

Even Strange's suggestion of restricting things to the current day will lead to the same answer since there are still purely mechanical (specialist) computers in use eg the antenna impedance calculators.

I actually restricted t to "modern electronic" but never mind. :)

 

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On 9/6/2018 at 8:08 PM, Achilles said:

Anything that requires user input. Is transistors at the heart of it, acting as on and off switches which equate to values (most commonly 1's and 0's)?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xpk67YzOn5w

Didn't read any of the other posts so apologies if someone else mentioned this. You can build logic gates out of dominoes. You can build logic gates out of anything. Transistors are convenient because they are very fast. But that's only an implementation detail. Nothing in the definition of computing requires any particular implementation; and in fact it's a basic principle of computing that the particular implementation is irrelevant.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domino_computer

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2 minutes ago, wtf said:

Didn't read any of the other posts so apologies if someone else mentioned this. You can build logic gates out of dominoes. You can build logic gates out of anything. Transistors are convenient because they are very fast. But that's only an implementation detail. Nothing in the definition of computing requires any particular implementation; and in fact it's a basic principle of computing that the particular implementation is irrelevant.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domino_computer

Domino computer ??

+1

Is that pizza base(d)?

 

:)

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5 hours ago, studiot said:

Domino computer ??

+1

Is that pizza base(d)?

 

:)

Yes the Domino computer delivers!

I gave the Wiki link but here's a direct link to a 19 minute video of a 10,000 domino computer that they set up on the floor of a huge gym or warehouse. 

(Annoying Youtube ad precedes, you can dismiss it in 5 seconds)

 

Edited by wtf
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Don't need them to make the AND and OR logic gates. Less useful though and more limited(fan-out).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diode_logic

Need amplification/negation to really work wonders though. What vacuum tubes and later the much better transistors provide. Doesn't have to be a transistor but needs to accomplish the same.

 

Domino Logic is interesting. Hadn't run across that before :)

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7 hours ago, Endy0816 said:

Don't need them to make the AND and OR logic gates. Less useful though and more limited(fan-out).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diode_logic

Need amplification/negation to really work wonders though. What vacuum tubes and later the much better transistors provide. Doesn't have to be a transistor but needs to accomplish the same.

So use tunnel diodes rather than the ordinary ones.

I had thought transistors had overtaken them but not not entirely it seems as of 2013.

Quote

Their negative differential resistance in part of their operating range allows them to function as oscillators and amplifiers, and in switching circuits using hysteresis.     ......

In 1977, the Intelsat V satellite receiver used a microstrip tunnel diode amplifier (TDA) front-end in the 14 to 15.5 GHz frequency band. Such amplifiers were considered state-of-the-art, with better performance at high frequencies than any transistor-based front end.[12]

In 2013, the NEE-01 Pegaso and NEE-02 Krysaor satellites used power management modules based on a series of tunnel diodes to fast switch between solar powered operation and battery powered operation replacing otherwise very complex electronics with a few devices.

 

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8 hours ago, Endy0816 said:

Don't need them to make the AND and OR logic gates. Less useful though and more limited(fan-out).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diode_logic

Need amplification/negation to really work wonders though. What vacuum tubes and later the much better transistors provide. Doesn't have to be a transistor but needs to accomplish the same.

 

Domino Logic is interesting. Hadn't run across that before :)

I can't see anything wrong with your post so perhaps whoever gave a red point slipped up. Here's +1 to reverse it anyway.

BTW tunnel diodes have never really been eithe in fashion or out of fashion - I still have some in my spares box.

But they are rather harder  and more expensive to get hold of than some other components, and don't integrate well in large scale chips.
Even ordinary diodes are often replaced by diode connected transistors on chips because the transistors are actually cheaped to produce on chip.
The same goes for resistors on chips.

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8 minutes ago, studiot said:

I can't see anything wrong with your post so perhaps whoever gave a red point slipped up.

I did it, accidentally, then thought I'd cancelled it.

I'm beginning to think the board software is a disguised intelligence test.:(

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On 9/9/2018 at 6:44 AM, Carrock said:

So use tunnel diodes rather than the ordinary ones.

I had thought transistors had overtaken them but not not entirely it seems as of 2013.

 

 

On 9/9/2018 at 6:56 AM, studiot said:

I can't see anything wrong with your post so perhaps whoever gave a red point slipped up. Here's +1 to reverse it anyway.

BTW tunnel diodes have never really been eithe in fashion or out of fashion - I still have some in my spares box.

But they are rather harder  and more expensive to get hold of than some other components, and don't integrate well in large scale chips.
Even ordinary diodes are often replaced by diode connected transistors on chips because the transistors are actually cheaped to produce on chip.
The same goes for resistors on chips.

 

All good guys :)

Definitely has a coolness factor of working via quantum tunneling.

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