A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is the fundamental building block of modern electronic devices and is ubiquitous in modern electronic systems. The transistor revolutionized the field of electronics and paved the way for smaller and cheaper radios, calculators, and computers, among other things.[1]

In the Fallout universe, circumstances involving the invention of the transistor are unclear as transistors have appeared throughout the series. Despite this, alternate theories have arisen such as "transistors not being invented at all in Fallout" or "being invented in 2067" which have not been confirmed with concrete citations.

In light of alternate theories appearing as early as 2008,[2][3] early developer notes or commentaries on transistors in Fallout are limited or non-existent. Developer comments appear to contradict each other and have emerged piecemeal in 2003 and after the release of Fallout 4 in 2015.


One of the common explanations for the timeline divergence is that post-World War II humanity in the Fallout universe invested its technological efforts in further harnessing the atom and robotics rather than focusing on working to develop supercomputers and miniaturized electronics. For the most part, vacuum tubes appear to have taken over the role of transistors, preventing the miniaturization of technology in Fallout and leading to some technology appearing old and outdated by modern standards.

Computers in the Fallout universe are far clunkier than the ones in our world and most still use monochromatic, text-based displays. The personal computer as it exists in our world was never fully developed due to these limitations on compactness, and some computers still exist as large mainframes that can take up whole rooms. The users access them via terminals. Nonetheless, some mainframes are highly advanced in terms of processing power, such as those capable of running an artificial intelligence.

Microchips also do appear to exist and can be seen among common household items, super computers, and energy weapons alike throughout the series.[4]

Possible invention in 2023Edit

Jack Cabot directly mentions in a terminal entry that he is experimenting on "some of the new transistors" in the context of making his Abremalin field generator portable. He succeeds but has reservations about it working at all.[5] It is unknown if the portable version of the Abremalin field generator is the one used at Parsons State Insane Asylum or not, but there is no mention of the portable version past the single entry.

Alleged invention in 2067Edit

A prevalent citation is that the transistor was invented in 2067 or a decade before the Great War in 2077. An additional corollary is that the transistor was not invented in Fallout in 1947 and thus diverges from our timeline.

However, no direct proof of either statement can be found as well as whether or not it was intended since the beginning of the series as developer comments appear to contradict each other over the years.

Mentions of the transistor in the Fallout seriesEdit

Fallout and Fallout 2Edit

Transistors are not mentioned in the Fallout Bible. Fallout Bible 8, however does briefly mention vacuum tubes as part of the aesthetic.

This theme translates into the "look" and the actual physics of the world (Torg-style, if you've ever played Torg) - so anyway, you get giant radioactive monsters, pulp science with lasers, blasters, vacuum tubes, big expensive cars with fins, Art Deco architecture, robots with brains in domes atop their heads, lots of tape reel computer machines, the whole "atomic horror" feel, and it explains the artistic style of the interface.
FO2 Den Hole

An example of a desktop computer seen in Fallout 2's The Hole.

However, typical 80s/90s desktop computers are seen as map props in Fallout 1 and Fallout 2.

Fallout TacticsEdit

Mini-FOT LogoThe following is based on Fallout Tactics and some details might contradict canon.

The Reavers have various quotes about the transistor.

For the glory of the transistor!
Wait! Is this transistor reverse biased?

The Junction City enforcers mention silicon.

The fools worship silicon.
Mini-FOT LogoEnd of information based on Fallout Tactics.

Fallout: New VegasEdit

One of Robert House's quotes is:

Don't let the video screens and computer terminals fool you. I'm flesh and blood, not silicon.

Silicon is famously used in the creation of semiconductors, integrated circuits, and transistors and in this case, as shorthand for an electronic device.

Fallout 4Edit

The Cabot House terminal entries for 09/05/2023 directly mention transistors:

I've been experimenting with some of the new transistors, and it looks possible to make a portable version of the Abremalin field generator.

Whether the transistors were newly invented in 2023 or have been around prior to that date is unknown.

The Listening Post Bravo terminal entries mention a "transistor radio":

That means four weeks stuck in this bunker with only military rations, old magazines and a transistor radio to keep me company.

One of Proctor Quinlan's possible responses mentions a "transistor radio."

Doubtful. I wouldn't "miss" a synth any sooner than I'd miss a transistor radio.

Fallout 76Edit

The quest The Messenger requires a Memory transistor for completion.

The Scoot's shack terminal entries mention a "transistor radio" manufactured by General Atomics International.

First trip hunting a REAL phenomenon. The evidence on interacting with the spirit world is undeniable. We brought an old General Atomics BS7 transistor radio. Shawn says it's a perfect "Ghost Phone". Man, was he right. We got some of the craziest messages from this house. We kept hearing "Church" repeated over and over again.

Pre-2015 developer commentariesEdit

Joshua Sawyer on the Interplay Forums (2003)Edit

Around June 2003, a conversation ensued between developer Joshua Sawyer on the Interplay Forums and user Saint_Proverbius on the No Mutants Allowed forums.

A secondary backup of the block quotes was kept on the No Mutants Allowed forum. According to the backups, Sawyer was answering a question about D&D-style damage types regarding EMPs. User Saint_Proverbius retorts with an alleged quote from a Fallout developer, but does not remember the developer’s name. Sawyer replies that he is unfamiliar with any other Fallout developer having mentioned the transistor and cites examples where transistors and integrated circuits can be found in Fallout.

Sawyer: In terms of your damage categories, I do think there needs to be a few more. EMP, in particular, is different from electricity in a way I believe is significant in a game with robotic enemies. I also think that ballistic damage and armor is different enough that it demands it's own category. I don't necessarily see the benefit for making a character right or left handed.

Saint_Proverbius: EMP damage? Ummm.. Imagine a future where the transistor had never been invented. I wish I could remember which Fallout developer said that to describe Fallout's setting, but it's a fairly major concept! EMP really only works well on integrated circuits, re: transistor stuff, which aren't part of Fallout's setting.[6]

Sawyer: Let me know if you found out which dev said that, because EMP grenades wreak utter havok on robots all over Fallout and Fallout 2. I walk into the Glow, throw an EMP grenade, and robots drop like flies in a blast furnace. It's pretty clear that ICs are used in robots all over the Fallout world. However, I think that a future Fallout title should take into account that some models of our traditional friends like Mr. Handy and Floating Eye Bot should be made with vaccuumIcon sic tube tech to reflect the necessity of robots operating in the wake of atomic EMP blasts.[7]

Unfortunately, the entire exchange on the Interplay Forums side was incompletely archived.[8] The user appears to have been well-known to Fallout developers.[9]

Post-2015 developer commentariesEdit

Gradually after the release of Fallout 4 in 2015, further developers revealed comments on the transistor to limited audiences.

Other earlier developer comments are not known at this time.

Joel Burgess (2016)Edit

Thirteen years later in 2016, the first of the "modern era" developer comments regarding the status of the transistor in Fallout appeared in a November 4, 2016 livestream at Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy. Developer Joel Burgess mentions the following in response to a question about world-building near the end of the presentation:[10]

So transistors are part of the canonical, like it's from Fallout 1, that culture never invented transistors and part of that influences why you see big tube things. The interfaces in Fallout 1 and 2 are engineered in a way that, in a world without transistors, still gets really advanced technology. How is their technology different, by making this one butterfly effect change?

[...] This is an argument that I had, many, many times, with people working on 3 and 4, it's like that transistor decision about the world... That rule isn't just about the mechanics of "how do I build like a fusion car without a transistor, or whatever?" What does that say about the cultural priorities of the people who live in that world? So, for instance, one of the things about the setting of Fallout, for me is miniaturization of technology - it's not a priority. Right?

For us, miniaturizing is really important, but people kind of forget. It's a common thing that people who have just played Fallout lightly don't realize is like, "Oh yeah, technology stopped in the 50s." No, actually, technology didn't stop in the 50s, it evolved beyond what we can do right now. And there's a lot of super sci-fi stuff in there, but just the expression of it is different.

The argument I would get into with people is about security cameras. Level designers were building space and put CCTV cameras all around the building and everything like "Ah, this is great." No, no, no, no, no, look, this is somebody's house. Alright, in the world of Fallout, a miniaturized camera - they exist, but it would cost like 15 million dollars. I could go to Best Buy and buy one for 15 or 150 for a whole house setup of miniaturized cameras. But in their world, a camera that's miniaturized to that extent, would be extremely exotic technology that would only be used [in] like a super-high grade military complex or government applications. For somebody's who's coming into that canon and be[ing] like "Ah, I'm gonna make a thing and I've done levels before and I used cam..." and I'm like phbt, no, no, no, no...

So you have these rules about the world. And that thing about the cameras, man, I got so tired of that argument because I knew I sound[ed] like a crazy person every time. Right? But it's just this little thing, y'know, and I was like "why [are] aluminum bottles not the primary bottles, it's like an expression of that world...

Leonard Boyarsky (2018)Edit

In January 2018, YouTuber Matt Barton, in a personal interview, chatted with developer Leonard Boyarsky 21 years after releasing the game.

In response to the question about what were the inspirations behind the very unique 1950s sci-fi theme for Fallout and the transition away from a pure Mad Max style, Boyarsky mentioned the following on how he initially starting calling on vacuum tubes for their aesthetic value:[11]

We started the game, we're like "Oh, we want to make a Road Warrior-esque Mad Max kind of video game. So we just started making that game.

I didn't put a lot of thought into it [...] just going to other wo-this is what we're gonna make. And it wasn't until...oh, I don't know six, eight months in, it couldn't have been a year, that this occurred to me, and I don't know why. I've tried to track back and find reasons for why this thing came to me while I was driving home one night. I just thought, "That would be really cool, if it was like this 1950s thing." I think it was a combination of things I've been able to kind of figure out.

I'd recently been reading Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow and if you look at that you could see a lot of the basic, raw material for the world, in terms the artistic style of that. And then the other thing was, in retrospect, looking at it, a lot of what we were doing felt very 50s B-movie. The plots, the story we were telling, the fact that we came up with super mutants. It was all very comic-booky, they're all very B-movie. We wanted to feel like, without ever having said this, it seems in hindsight we were all into this. Kind of like, you know, it's very pulpy, it's very B-science-fictiony.

So (and I said this at the talk too) when I came in and said, "This is what we're gonna do.": we really didn't change anything that we'd already done. We, just from that moment forward, started building all this 50s stuff into it. So there's kind of this mix of post-apocalyptic Road Warrior, even the original Alien influence. And then all of a sudden you get all this 1950s stuff and that kind of all combined to make this. And a lot of the things we figured out about the fact that they never went beyond transistors, they stayed with the vacuum tubes: started with me going, "We need a lotta vacuum tubes! Everything would look cooler if it had vacuum tubes on it!"

And Tim's like, "Well, you know if they never did, if they never went over to transistors, this would make it so that you wouldn't be as susceptible to an EMP blast..." I'm like, "Oh that's great!" So, it was really this organic growing of the IP or growing of this kind of idea for what we wanted to do. But if you asked me at the time, I...probably had no idea or I couldn't have told you why I thought it was such a great idea. Now, luckily, we were at that point where it looks like they were happy with the game we were making...

Behind the scenesEdit

In the real world, the field-effect transistor was patented by Julius Edgar Lilienfeld in Canada in 1925, in the United States in 1926 and 1928, and by German inventor Oskar Heil in 1934. A functional point-contact transistor was developed by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain of Bell Labs in 1947 and by Herbert Mataré and Heinrich Welker of Compagnie des Freins et Signaux in 1948. In fact, two of the four patents related to 1947 transistor were rejected by the Patent Office because of the Lilienfeld patents.[12]


  1. Transistor. Wikipedia.
  2. November 17, 2008 comment from the /r/gaming subreddit.
  3. September 26, 2011 comment from the /r/Fallout subreddit.
  4. Circuitry, AER14 prototype, scrap electronics, blue memory module, NavCom parts, plasma transformer, red memory module, Vault 15 computer parts, yellow memory module
  5. Cabot House terminal entries; terminal, 09/05/2023
  6. Sawyer and other views from NMA post on the No Mutants Allowed forum, June 19, 2003
  7. Sawyer and NMA, the next chapter post on the No Mutants Allowed forum, June 26, 2003
  8. J.E. Sawyer on the Interplay Forums (Archived) (Original) Partially posted on June 17, 2003
  9. Chris Avellone's twitter "Is Saint Proverbius still around? Man, as much debate as the two of us had, I still miss that guy." Posted on January 31, 2018
  10. Industry Guest: Joel Burgess From Ubisoft @1:27:30 Streamed live on Nov 4, 2016
  11. Matt Chat 396: Leonard Boyarsky on Fallout @3:30 Published on January 27, 2018
  12. Shurkin, Joel N. (2008) Broken Genius pg 116
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