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Chips and Circuit Boards

Repair Shop StaffWith the invention of the silicon chip in 1958 came the possibility to make computer components much more compact than before. The early computers of the 1940s and 1950s depended on vacuum tubes and were very large, with a single computer filling an entire room. After the invention of the transistor in 1947, bulky vacuum tubes were replaced and it was possible to develop new technologies such as electronic switching systems. Silicon chips installed on circuit boards allowed computers to become even smaller and lighter in the 1970s.

Small computer units were needed for the space race in the 1960s: NASA required high performance from the equipment it sent into space, but it also needed to minimize the weight carried by the launch vehicles. Solid-state circuits could function reliably despite the rigours of space travel and were lighter in weight than earlier options.

These new developments in circuitry were soon introduced in business machines and appliances. Reliability and compact size were the main selling points of the new equipment. The first trials of computerized telephone switching equipment took place in the 1960s, but the equipment was not widely available for purchase until the 1970s. However, computerized support for such office functions as directory assistance and service requests was introduced in Edmonton in the late 1960s.

Tape reels Today’s electronic switching equipment uses circuit boards like those found in personal computers and calculators. The circuit boards contain different levels of circuitry built onto the platform unit. Different packages are manufactured for different purposes and can be customized for special installation by selecting different options.

When a problem arises, a circuit board can be removed and replaced quickly, a marked contrast to the labour-intensive repair and maintenance needed with earlier systems. The switching equipment is compact and can handle a large volume of telephone traffic in a small installation space.

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