Chapter 1

The Origins and Evolution of Quality and Reliability

“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness . . . . Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Life of Reason (1905 vol. 1, ch. 10)

1.1 Sixty Years of Evolving Electronic Equipment Technology

During the first half of the twentieth century many electronic equipments were manufactured using thermionic valves. Although these devices enabled the invention of revolutionary products such as radio, radar, power converters and computers, they were inherently unreliable. Thermionic valves were bulky and extremely fragile in shock and vibration environments. Many generated a great amount of heat and all of them burned out after a relatively short operating period. The first digital computer, constructed in 1946, is recorded as containing 18 000 thermionic valves and weighing 50 tons.

Following some fifteen years of research at the Bell Telephone Laboratories and elsewhere, by 1947 the transistor had been invented. Germanium was soon to be replaced by silicon, which today remains the most common semiconductor material. By the mid 1950s transistors were being manufactured on a commercial scale. The next major milestone in component technology was the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958. Integrated circuits provided many obvious advantages over previous component technologies. These advantages included a reduced number of connections required, reduced space required, reduced power ...

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