In 1947, a research team at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey demonstrated a new electrical amplifier, the ‘transistor’. Unlike the prevailing vacuum–tube amplifiers, the transistor was a solid–state device built from a piece of semiconductor crystal. Its invention sparked a revolution in electronics and communication technology that continues to rage unabated 50 years later. But one of the most striking aspects of the progress of semiconductor science over the last 50 years is how the commercially driven technological developments in semiconductor devices have occurred alongside advances in fundamental physics obtained from investigation of the same semiconductor devices. The basic building blocks of computer and communication technologies are perfect for the study of electrons and their interactions with each other and with their environment; the fundamental interactions of one of nature'most fundamental particles. This paper develops the symbiotic relationship between the technological and the fundamental aspects of these electronic systems and reviews recent highlights of semiconductor physics and technology. I will also look, however, at a future generation of microelectronic devices in which the fusion of molecular biology, chemistry and physics will produce breathtaking results.