Engineers from all over the world heard specialists at the 1960 Solid-State Circuits Conference report that wide application of the Esaki (tunnel) diode is imminent. Only a little more design work and quantity production are needed, the experts said. Major computer makers cited crash programs to develop Esaki diode circuits, and other companies revealed top-priority projects to apply the diode to communications equipment.
But for circuit engineers, the question was, "Transistors or Esaki diodes?" Designers appear to be in the same position they were a decade ago, when they asked "Tubes or transistors?" Some stayed with "proved circuits," while others adopted the transistor and changed the industry. Today, designers familiar with standard solid-state technology are trying to adjust to new concepts forced on them by the Esaki diode: negative resistance, ultra-high speeds, and ultra-low power consumption.
Interest in the diode is so great that it dominated the solid-state conference. More than 3100 engineers and physicists from the U.S., Japan, and Europe were drawn to Philadelphia for the conference. Ten of the 43 papers and two heavily attended informal discussions were devoted to the Esaki diode.
Thin magnetic films, logic and data-storage techniques, high-frequency amplifiers and solid-state advances in microelectronics rounded out the conference program. (Electronic Design, March 16, 1960, p. 26)
Esaki, or tunnel, diodes eventually settled into some niche applications. But they never were designed into the broad applications that were predicted when they first came upon the scene.