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Electronics  is a discipline dealing with the behavior and effects of electrons (as in electron tubes and transistors) and with electronic devices, systems, or equipment. The term now also covers a large part of electrical engineering degree courses as studied at most European universities. In the U.S., however, electrical engineering implies all the wide electrical disciplines including electronics.

In many areas, electronic engineering is considered to be at the same level as electrical engineering, requiring that more general programmes be called electrical and electronic engineering (many UK universities have departments of Electronic and Electrical Engineering). Both define a broad field that encompasses many subfields including those that deal with power, instrumentation engineering, telecommunications, and semiconductor circuit design amongst many others

Early Electronics

In 1893, Nikola Tesla made the first public demonstration of radio communication. Addressing the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the National Electric Light Association, he described and demonstrated in detail the principles of radio communication. In 1896, Guglielmo Marconi went on to develop a practical and widely used radio system. In 1904, John Ambrose Fleming , the first professor of electrical Engineering at University College London, invented the first radio tube, the diode. One year later, in 1906, Robert von Lieben and Lee De Forest independently developed the amplifier tube, called the triode.

Electronics is often considered to have begun when Lee De Forest invented the vacuum tube in 1907 . Within 10 years, his device was used in radio transmitters and receivers as well as systems for long distance telephone calls. Vacuum tubes remained the preferred amplifying device for 40 years, until researchers working for William Shockley at Bell Labs invented the transistor in 1947 . In the following years, transistors made small portable radios, or transistor radios, possible as well as allowing more powerful mainframe computers to be built. Transistors were smaller and required lower voltages than vacuum tubes to work.In the interwar years the subject of electronics was dominated by the worldwide interest in radio and to some extent telephone and telegraph communications. The terms 'wireless' and 'radio' were then used to refer anything electronic. There were indeed few non-military applications of electronics beyond radio at that time until the advent of television. The subject was not even offered as a separate university degree subject until about 1960.[citation needed]

Prior to the second world war, the subject was commonly known as 'radio engineering' and basically was restricted to aspects of communications and RADAR, commercial radio and early television. At this time, study of radio engineering at universities could only be undertaken as part of a physics degree. Later, in post war years, as consumer devices began to be developed, the field broadened to include modern TV, audio systems, Hi-Fi and latterly computers and microprocessors. In the mid to late 1950s, the term radio engineering gradually gave way to the name electronic engineering, which then became a stand alone university degree subject, usually taught alongside electrical engineering with which it had become associated due to some similarities.

Before the invention of the integrated circuit in 1959 , electronic circuits were constructed from discrete components that could be manipulated by hand. These non-integrated circuits consumed much space and power, were prone to failure and were limited in speed although they are still common in simple applications. By contrast, integrated circuits packed a large number — often millions — of tiny electrical components, mainly transistors, into a small chip around the size of a coin.