Transistors are available in a large variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own unique
characteristics. The characteristics for each of these transistors are usually presented on
SPECIFICATION SHEETS or they may be included in transistor manuals. Although many properties of
a transistor could be specified on these sheets, manufacturers list only some of them. The specifications
listed vary with different manufacturers, the type of transistor, and the application of the transistor. The
specifications usually cover the following items.
1. A general description of the transistor that includes the following information:
a. The kind of transistor. This covers the material used, such as germanium or silicon; the type
of transistor (NPN or PNP); and the construction of the transistor(whether alloy-junction,
grown, or diffused junction, etc.).
b. Some of the common applications for the transistor, such as audio amplifier, oscillator, rf
c. General sales features, such as size and packaging mechanical data).
2. The "Absolute Maximum Ratings" of the transistor are the direct voltage and current values that
if exceeded in operation may result in transistor failure. Maximum ratings usually include
collector-to-base voltage, emitter-to-base voltage, collector current, emitter current, and collector
3. The typical operating values of the transistor. These values are presented only as a guide. The
values vary widely, are dependent upon operating voltages, and also upon which element is
common in the circuit. The values listed may include collector-emitter voltage, collector current,
input resistance, load resistance, current-transfer ratio (another name for alpha or beta), and
collector cutoff current, which is leakage current from collector to base when no emitter current
is applied. Transistor characteristic curves may also be included in this section. A transistor
characteristic curve is a graph plotting the relationship between currents and voltages in a circuit.
More than one curve on a graph is called a "family of curves."
4. Additional information for engineering-design purposes.
So far, many letter symbols, abbreviations, and terms have been introduced, some frequently used
and others only rarely used. For a complete list of all semiconductor letter symbols and terms, refer to
EIMB series 000-0140, Section III.
Transistors can be identified by a Joint Army-Navy (JAN) designation printed directly on the case of
the transistor. The marking scheme explained earlier for diodes is also used for transistor identification.
The first number indicates the number of junctions. The letter "N" following the first number tells us that
the component is a semiconductor. And, the 2- or 3-digit number following the N is the manufacturer's
identification number. If the last number is followed by a letter, it indicates a later, improved version of
the device. For example, a semiconductor designated as type 2N130A signifies a three-element transistor
of semiconductor material that is an improved version of type 130: