EE Journal Article: When Tubes Were Better Than Transistors

The Electron Tube Information Council’s tube-versus-transistor book predates publication of Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by 37 years. Christensen focused his book on disruptive innovation and the idea that new, lower-cost technologies replace established ones somewhat slowly. At first, these new technologies appeal to only those developers who are locked out of a market or markets because of the high cost of existing components needed to do the job.

This book remains an important, historic milestone, in my opinion. There are ample opportunities to learn from this book because it captures a moment in time when one electronic technology was in the process of supplanting another. New technologies appear every year. One year, it’s the DRAM or the microprocessor. More recently, perhaps it’s PCM (phase-change memory), or memristors, or the open-source RISC-V microprocessor architecture. One thing you can be sure of. When these earth-shaking innovations first appear, they’re like newborns: weak and barely capable, but brimming with possibilities.


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