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Happy Holidays—It’s a People Business We’re In, and It Always Has Been

December 25, 2023 by Jeff Child

On this Christmas day, let’s remember that this is a people business. Enjoy this round up of 2023 articles about people that performed extraordinary engineering work throughout history.

Our All About Circuits team wishes all of you Happy Holidays and a Merry Chrstmas! This is a time of year when we enjoy gathering with our family, friends, and loved ones. It’s also naturally a time to look back at the year and appreciate all the people that make our lives special.

It’s also a good time to remember that we’re in a people business. The electronics technology industry that you are all a part of may center around “things” such as semiconductor chips, software tools, PCBs, and a myriad of electronic components of all types. But it’s the people that make it special, and that do all the engineering and innovation that are behind today’s amazing high-tech devices.

The fact that our industry is a people business is not only true today, it’s been so from the very beginning. Even as vacuum tubes gave way to transistors, and transistors grew into complex integrated circuits, it was the innovation of people—engineers—that pushed each step forward.

With all that in mind, on this Christmas Day, we’d  like to honor some of those people by rounding up 8 of our most popular Historial Engineering articles from this past year and celebrate some of the men and women that were key to various aspects of what our electronics industry is today.

 

Gordon Moore—the Father of Moore’s Law

In March of this year the industry lost one of its giants when Gordon Moore passed away at age 94. Moore had an eventful career, and was the co-founder of Intel, a company whose chief goal at its launch was scaled chipset production. That soon shifted to a focus on microprocessors, and Intel remains the dominant processor vendor today.

Moore is famously the namesake of Moore’s Law,, which states that transistor counts would double every two years.

All About Circuits even named our podcast, Moore's Lobby, after him!

 

Gordon Moore

Gordon Moore. Image used courtesy of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

 

Read the article here:

The Story of Silicon Valley Giant Gordon Moore, Father of Moore’s Law

 

Grace Hopper—Programming Language Innovator

Grace Hopper is most known for her success at bridging the gap between English and machine language with the invention of the fist compiler. This compiler dubbed “A-0” enabled machine code to be automatically generated from an English-based language. This simplified computer programming and set the stage for the COBOL programming language.

A Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, Hopper has numerous namesakes in her honor, including colleges, a U.S. Navy vessel, and high-performance processors.

 

Grace Hopper gave a lecture on Howard Acker and the Harvard Mark I computer in 1983 at the Computer Museum.

Grace Hopper gave a lecture on Howard Acker and the Harvard Mark I computer in 1983 at the Computer Museum. Image used courtesy of the Computer History Museum

 

Read the article here:

Commemorating Grace Hopper, the Woman Who Inspired NVIDIA’s CPU

 

Robert Watson-Watt—Creator of a Critical World War II Radar System

In World War II, air force power became incredibly important. To fight the enemy, British pilots needed a way to achieve early warning and location data of incoming aircraft. Engineer Robert Watson-Watt made this possible with his work that led to the Chain Home radar system.

The pulsed transmissions produced by the Chain Home equipment allowed operators to determine distance by measuring the time delta between Tx and Rx signals. The arrangement of antenna installations provided multiple detection points for a single target, and with the help of trigonometry, operators could calculate the target’s range, bearing, and altitude.

“Sir Robert Watson-Watt” was actually knighted by King George VI in 1942 for the engineer’s huge contribution to the war effort.

 

Robert Watson-Watt.

Robert Watson-Watt. Image courtesy of Historic UK

 

Read the article here:

Robert Watson-Watt, the Engineer Who Saved Great Britain

 

Robert Metcalfe—Co-Inventor of Ethernet

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the birth of Ethernet. Although the IEEE standard for Ethernet was first published in 1980, it was a memo written by Robert Metcalfe in 1973 that kicked things off. In the memo to his management at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center he explained how Ethernet could work.

Metcalfe, working with David Boggs, and others at Xerox PARC were able to implement the first Ethernet-based network. Metcalfe would later define an Ethernet protocol that introduced the concept of source and destination addressing, as well as a Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC).

Today, Etherent is at the heart of what makes today’s modern-day internet function.

 

Robert Metcalfe.

Robert Metcalfe. Image used courtesy of MIT

 

Read the article here:

Ethernet Turns 50 Today: A Day to Review the Feats of Robert Metcalfe, Co-Inventor of Ethernet

 

Five Influential Women That Inspired Women Into STEM Careers

Ever since the U.S. National Science Foundation first introduced the term in 2001, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) has had a push for more diversity and inclusivity as part of its key aspects. But for women in particular, the path toward a STEM education or career hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

As part of All About Circuit’s Women’s History Month coverage earlier this year, we took a look at five interesting and influential women who helped inspire women into STEM. The article cover’s Star Trek actress and NASA spokesperson Nichelle Nichols, U.S. space program mathematician Katherine Johnson, electrical motor designer Gertrude Entwisle, pioneering EE professor Erna Hamburger, and Florence McKenzie, Australia’s first female EE and ham radio operator.

 

From left, Erna Hamburger, Florence McKenzie, Nichelle Nichols, Katherine Johnson, and Gertrude Entwisle

 

Read the article here:

Women in STEM—A Road Paved With the Firsts of Many Determined Women

 

Phillip Smith—Creator of the Smith Chart

If you remember from your EE college days, a Smith chart is a graphical calculator for solving problems with transmission lines and matching circuits. Phillip Hagar Smith was the electrical engineer that created it. He began as an amateur radio operator, but he went on to contribute to fields including radar, FM, and antennas.

When Smith died in 1987, more than nine million copies of his chart had been sold. Smith held 21 U.S. patents and published over 35 technical papers on antennas and transmission lines during his lifetime.

 

Phillip Hagar Smith.

Phillip Hagar Smith. Image courtesy of the Smith Chart Amateur Radio Society

 

Read the article here:

Phillip Smith: From Amateur Radio Operator to Creator of the Smith Chart

 

Judith Resnik—EE and Second U.S. Woman in Space

Judith Resnik earned advanced degrees in electrical engineering, worked in the defense industry, and also did research in neurophysiology. She wasn’t content to stop there. Resnik was a member of the crew that flew into orbit aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the fourth woman in the world and the second American woman to enter outer space.

Resnik spent six days in space as Mission Specialist 3 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, operating the shuttle’s robotic arm and contributing to the successful deployment of communications satellites.

Sadly, as a member of the crew on Space Shuttle Challenger, she was one of seven astronauts who perished when the spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic shortly after takeoff. Her historic accomplishments are not forgotten. A Moon crater and an asteroid have been named after her, and she posthumously received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
 

Judith Resnik’s official NASA portrait.

Judith Resnik’s official NASA portrait. Image courtesy of NASA

 

Read the article here:

Remembering Judith Resnik: EE and Second American Woman in Space

 

Lee de Forest—Inventor of the Three-Terminal Vacuum Tube

Engineer and inventor Lee de Forest is said to have opened the door to modern microelectronics through his crucial addition of a third electrode to an existing vacuum-tube design. Dr. de Forest recognized the amplifying and detecting possibilities of a voltage-controlled device such as his 3-terminal vacuum tubed, called the Audion.

The timeline of his accomplishments are impressive. In 1893, while Lee de Forest was attending the Chicago World’s Fair, the inventions of Nikola Tesla caught his eye. In 1901, he successfully field tested his patented RF “responder” device, improving on Marconi's coherer RF design. And in 1907, he demonstrated how his Audion could create oscillations to be used as carriers of speech and music.

 

De Forest holds two of his Audions, a small 1-watt receiving tube (left) and a 250-watt transmitting power tube he referred to as an "oscillion" (right). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Read the article here:

Lee de Forest, the Audion, and the Dawn of the Age of Microelectronics

 

You Are Our People, And We Are Yours

In your free time over the holidays, hopefully you’ve kicked back and taken some time to read these interesting articles from our 2023 Historical Engineers series. We appreciate all of you in our All About Circuits community, including all our readers and our industry supporters. Remember it’s a people business, and you are our people! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all. Here’s to another great year together with you in 2024!