Test your nerd knowledge: Jan. 25, 2023


  1. This device, invented at Bell Labs in 1959, is considered the most common type of transistor and semiconductor device in the world and is still used today in automotive control units. What is the device called?
  2. What filmmaker wrote the screenplays for the Mark Zuckerberg biopic, “The Social Network,” and the Steve Jobs biopic, “Steve Jobs”?
  3. What search engine’s name was inspired by the fictional valet in British author P.G. Wodehouse’s series of Bertie Wooster novels?

And here are the answers:

  1. Answer: MOSFET. Defined as a Metal Oxide Silicon Field Effect Transistor, there are multitudes of MOSFETs in every existing microchip or microprocessor. In simplest terms, the MOSFET is an electronic device, constructed by three terminals, used to switch or amplify voltages in circuits. Building upon the initial version of the transistor patented by Julius Edgar Lilienfeld in 1925, Bell Labs began an initiative in 1955 to update this technology. After several failed attempts, engineers Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng applied the principles of integrated circuits to their exploration and successfully built the first version of MOSFET in 1959. While contemporary bipolar junction transistors are 100 times faster, MOSFET maintains its presence in modern computer system construction. Since most are only a few nanometers in size, they are commonly used in modern CPUs and GPUs.
  2. Answer: Aaron Sorkin. While the subjects of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplays have varied wildly, from politics (“The West Wing”) to courtroom drama (“A Few Good Men”) and sports (“Moneyball”), his interest in real-life tech masterminds like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs makes clear that he has a keen understanding of the minds of brilliant-but-troubled billionaire nerds as well. He and director David Fincher applied meticulous research in telling the story of the early days of Facebook in 2010’s “The Social Network,” which starred Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg. Sorkin won an Oscar for the movie’s screenplay. Four years later, Sorkin teamed with director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) to create the biopic, “Steve Jobs.” While not as successful as “The Social Network,” the Jobs film did not lack in ambition, detailing Jobs’ complicated journey at the helm of Apple Computers. It starred Michael Fassbender as Jobs, with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels rounding out the supporting cast. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Jobs had been portrayed by Ashton Kutcher two years earlier in the movie, “Jobs,” which was considered a bomb.
  3. Answer: AskJeeves.com. Although it is occasionally used now as a punchline in late-night comedy shows, AskJeeves.com, now known as ask.com, was poised, 20 years ago, to take on Google and Yahoo as a preeminent search engine platform. Fans of British humorist P.G. Wodehouse’s fiction know that protagonist Bertie Wooster is the wealthy sophisticate who relies on his brilliant valet, known only as Jeeves, to figure a way out of whatever predicament they find themselves in. Unfortunately, the average person trying to find out “how many ounces in a cup,” for instance, wasn’t picking up on the cleverness that the team at AskJeeves was putting down. Launched in 1997, the site changed its name to ask.com in 2006. By 2010, the company gave up trying to compete with Google and downsized its profile. Today, ask.com, based in Oakland and owned by parent company InterActiveCorp, exists as a “question-answering-focused e-business.”