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.


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the role of transistors preventing the miniaturization of technology in Fallout leading to technology appearing old and outdated by modern standards.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 was never developed due to these limitations on compactness, and some computers still exist as large mainframes which 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.[2]

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. The first known comment by a Fallout developer regarding the transistor was made in 2016.

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 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?

While 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.

Behind the scenesEdit

  • The earliest known developer comment regarding the status of the transistor in Fallout comes from a 2016 presentation at Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy. Developer Joel Burgess mentions the following in response to a question about world-building:[3]
...transistors and water. Alright? So transistors are...ummm...transistors are part of the canonical, like it's from Fallout 1, that they, that culture never invented transistors and part of that is like, so that influences why like you see like, you know, big tubes things, like the interface in Fallout 1 and 2 like are-are engineered in a way that like in a world without transistors, that still gets like really advanced technology, how is their technology different, like by making this one butterfly effect change?

Uh and then one of the things too that like, and this is an argument that I had, many, many times, with people uhh working on 3 and 4, it's like that transistor dec- that decision about the world, right, that rule isn't just about like the mechanics of how do I build like a, you know, without a transistor, or whatever, but umm, what does that say about the cultural priorities of the people who live in that world? So, for instance one of the things about like the setting of Fallout, for me is like miniaturization of technology it's not a priority. Right?

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

So like, the argument I would get into with people is like about security cameras. Alright? And like level designers were like building space and put like CCTV cameras like all around the building and everything and like "Ah, this is great" and like no, no, no, no, no, look, this is somebody's house. Alright, like in the world of Fallout, a miniaturized camera like they exist, but it would cost like 15 million dollars. Like I could go to Best Buy and buy one for 15 or a 150 for like a whole-whole house setup of like miniaturized cameras. But in their world, like, a camera that's miniaturized to that extent, would be extremely exotic technology that would only be used like a super-high grade like military complex...or you know like government applications, and again like for somebody's who's like coming into that canon and be like "Ah I 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 like these rules about the world. And like that thing about the cameras like man I got so tired of that argument because I knew I sound like a crazy person every time. Right? But it's just like-like this little thing you know and I was like why the bottles are not like why aluminum bottles are not the primary bottles it's like an expression of that 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 [4]


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