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Electronics Engineering Technicians

History

Strictly speaking, electronics technology deals with the behavior of electrons as they pass through gases, liquids, solids, and vacuums. This field was originally an outgrowth of electrical engineering, an area concerned with the movement of electrons along conductors. As the field of electronics has expanded in scope, however, so has its definition, and today it encompasses all areas of technology concerned with the behavior of electrons in electronic devices and equipment, including electrical engineering.

Although the field of electronics had its most spectacular growth and development during the 20th century, it is actually the product of more than 200 years of study and experiment. One of the important early experimenters in this field was Benjamin Franklin. His experiments with lightning and his theory that electrical charges are present in all matter influenced the thinking and established much of the vocabulary of the researchers who came after him.

The invention of the electric battery, or voltaic pile, by the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta in 1800 ushered in a century of significant discoveries in the field of electricity and magnetism. Researchers working throughout Europe and the United States made important breakthroughs in how to strengthen, control, and measure the flow of electrons moving through vacuums. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these experiments culminated in Sir Joseph John Thomson's description and measurement of the particle now called the electron.

During the early years of the 20th century, further discoveries along these lines were made by experimenters such as Lee De Forest and Vladimir Zworykin. These discoveries led the way to developing equipment and techniques for long-distance broadcasting of radio and television signals. It was the outbreak of World War II, however, with its needs for long-distance communications equipment and, ultimately, missile-guidance systems, that brought about the rapid expansion of electronics technology and the creation of the electronics industry.

As the field of electronics technology turned to the creation of consumer and industrial products following the end of the war, its growth was spurred by two new technological developments. The first was the completion in 1946 of the first all-purpose, all-electronic digital computer. This machine, crude as it was, could handle mathematical calculations a thousand times faster than the electromechanical calculating machines of its day. Since 1946, there has been a steady growth in the speed, sophistication, and versatility of computers.

The second important development was the invention of the transistor in 1948. The transistor provided an inexpensive and compact replacement for the vacuum tubes used in nearly all electronic equipment up until then. Transistors allowed for the miniaturization of electronic circuits and were especially crucial in the development of the computer and in opening new possibilities in industrial automation.

Discoveries during the 1960s in the fields of microcircuitry and integrated circuitry led to the development of more sophisticated microminiaturized electronic equipment, from pocket calculators, digital watches, and microwave ovens to high-speed computers and the long-range guidance systems used in spaceflights.

By the 1970s, electronics had become one of the largest industries and most important areas of technology in the industrialized world, which, in turn, has come to rely on instantaneous worldwide communications, computer-controlled or computer-assisted industrial operations, and the wide-ranging forms of electronic data processing made possible by electronics technology.

Throughout the growth and development of the electronics field, there has been a need for skilled assistants in the laboratory, on the factory floor, and in the wide variety of settings where electronic equipment is used. Electronics engineering technicians fill this important role.

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