electronics industry

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electronics industry

electronics industry, the business of creating, designing, producing, and selling devices such as radios, televisions, stereos, computers, semiconductors, transistors, and integrated circuits (see electronics). As sales of electronic products in the United States grew from some $200 million in 1927 to over $266 billion in 1990, the electronics industry transformed factories, offices, and homes, emerging as a key economic sector that rivaled the chemical, steel, and auto industries in size.

The industry traces its origins to the invention of the two-element electron tube (1904) by John Ambrose Flemming, and the three-element tube (1906) by Lee De Forest. These inventions led to the development of commercial radio in the 1920s, which boosted radio sales to $300 million by the end of the decade. In 1947, the electronics industry made another important advance when John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invented the transistor. Smaller, lighter, and more durable than the vacuum tubes that had been used in radios, transistors touched off a period of progressive miniaturization of electronic devices. Integrated circuits, which were developed in the 1950s, allowed the integration of several circuits into one circuit, and the introduction of analog devices in the 1960s vastly increased the amount of information that could be stored on a single silicon chip.

Other important sectors that have made great advances since the 1970s include laser and optical electronics, digital electronics, and microwave electronics. Advances in the field of electronics have also played a key role in the development of space technology and satellite communications; inaugurated a revolution in the computer industry that led to the introduction of the personal computer; resulted in the introduction of computer-guided robots in factories; produced systems for storing and transmitting data electronically; greatly expanded the market for popular music and culture; and, in the process, transformed life at home, the office, and the factory. Many of these innovations, such as the transistor, had their origins in military research, which needed increasingly complex electronic devices for modern high-tech warfare.

In the 1960s, the U.S. consumer electronics industry went into decline as manufacturers were unable to compete with the quality and pricing of foreign products, especially the electronic goods produced by Japanese companies such as Sony and Hitachi. By the 1980s, however, U.S. manufacturers became the world leaders in semiconductor development and assembly. In the 1990s semiconductors were essential components of personal computers and most other electronic items (including cellular telephones, televisions, medical equipment, and “smart” appliances). While U.S. companies are still a major presence in the semiconductor industry (representing about 40% of world sales in 1998), the consumer items themselves are mostly made overseas. Worldwide electronic sales were nearly $700 billion in 1997.


See E. Braun, Revolution in Miniature (1978); D. W. A. Dummer, Electronics Inventions and Discoveries (1983); R. Houglum, Electronics: Concepts, Applications, and History (1985); D. P. Angel, Restructuring for Innovation: The Remaking of the U.S. Semiconductor Industry (1994).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Electronics Industry


a branch of industry whose products include electronic devices (semiconductor, electron-tube, and quartz-crystal devices, as well as products of quantum electronics, cryoelectronics, optoelectronics, and integrated optics), resistors, capacitors, plug-and-socket connectors, and processing equipment and apparatus (see also). The electronics industry is playing a dominant role in scientific and technological progress.

Commercial production of electronic devices began in the 1920’s. During that decade and in the 1930’s, the USSR was the leader in the development and production of such new types of electronic devices as microwave devices, cathode-ray tubes, and photomultipliers. Since World War II the electronics industry has grown rapidly.

The products of the electronics industry are used in such branches of science and technology as space science, radio physics, cybernetics, computer technology, communications, and medicine. They are also used in the development of modern control systems, radio-engineering equipment, and automation equipment and devices employed in industry, agriculture, and transportation and for defense purposes.

The State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for Electronic Technology was created in 1961, and the Ministry of the Electronics Industry of the USSR, in 1965.

Production, specialization, and cooperation in the electronics industry are highly concentrated, and the industry’s growth has been multifaceted. A wide variety of products are manufactured by the large specialized enterprises of the industry. Playing an essential role in the development of production specialization and cooperation are the creation of product lines with standard parameters, the development of improved basic designs and manufacturing processes, and comprehensive standardization.

The techniques used in the manufacture of electronic devices have changed radically with the emergence of new areas of application in electronics. The traditional techniques of processing materials are being supplanted by manufacturing processes based on the use of photolithography, diffusion, ion implantation, and electron-beam, plasma, and plasmochemical techniques. The raw materials used in the electronics industry must be of extremely high purity, since the introduction of impurities determines the technical specifications and performance characteristics of electronic devices.

The output of the electronics industry is growing rapidly, and the variety of semiconductor (especially integrated-circuit), quantum, and cryoelectronic devices, as well as devices based on acoustoelectronics and magnetoelectronics, is increasing. Rapid expansion has distinguished the production of such equipment as microcomputers, color picture tubes, electronic calculators (including programmable calculators), video recorders, electronic watches, high-quality stereo systems, and microwave ovens.

The growth of the electronics industry is outstripping that of other branches of industry. Between 1966 and 1975, the output of the electronics industry increased severalfold, and its labor productivity more than quadrupled. The principal means of improving production in the industry lie in comprehensive mechanization and automation based on the development of highly efficient equipment and apparatus, in computer-controlled automated assembly lines, and in the introduction of advanced manufacturing processes that are based on the latest scientific and technological achievements.

The production of electronic equipment has grown immensely in other socialist countries. Integrated circuits, semiconductor devices, resistors, and picture tubes are among the products manufactured by enterprises in Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.

In certain capitalist countries, particularly the USA, the electronics industry is highly developed and is marked by a high degree of monopolization and production concentration. There are also small enterprises that specialize in the manufacture of components for electronic devices and equipment, such as measuring apparatus. The largest electronics companies in the United States are Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation, National Semiconductor Corporation, RCA Corporation, Intel Corporation, Rockwell International Corporation, Texas Instruments, Inc., Motorola, Inc., and Mostek Corporation. The largest companies in Japan are Nippon Electric, Toshiba, and Matsushita Electric Industrial. The largest firms in the Federal Republic of Germany are Siemens and AEG-Telefunken; in Italy, CGS-ATES; in Great Britain, Plessey, General Electric Company, and Mullard; and in France, Thomson-CSF and Sescosem.


Opyt organizatsii i raboty khozraschetnykh ob”edinenii v promyshlennosti (collection of articles). Leningrad, 1970.
Ekonomika elektronnoi promyshlennosti. Moscow, 1976.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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