The More Things Change

Fifty years is a long time. This year marks the 50th year of service to the industry for this magazine, which started life as MicroWaves and added the "& RF" to the title in the early 1980s. In researching through some early issues, the differences in technology, in test equipment, in the appearance of components are quite striking but, in reading through some of the thoughts of magazine personnel, contributors, and working engineers from years past, it is surprising that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

When looking back across so many years, special reports, and "forecasts" of things to come often ring hollow when viewed with the clarity of hindsight. But in one case, an editorial written almost 40 years ago touched on points pertinent today. The piece "Does The Work Ethic Mean Anything Today?" written by Senior Editor Elmer Ebersol in the June 1973 issue addressed the problems of that day, such as declining stock-market prices, rising government debt, and decreasing value to the American dollar, and a solution: the old-fashioned work ethic. The piece pointed out that in 1973, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) was challenging its suppliers to increase productivity and lower costs. This "design-to-a-price" approach could then help the DoD to cut its operating costs while keeping the levels of research and development needed to maintain a technological edge.

In 1973, this country was in the throes of an inflationary economy with ever-rising unemployment. Jobs were disappearing and companies were reluctant to hire for fear that they couldn't sustain the growth needed to justify those new hires.

Fast forward to present time: politicians and military are using the same words. In 1973, Soviets were a concern. Today, it is the Chinese. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates met recently with Chinese President Hu Jintao over China's expanding military efforts. China's military, fueled by the world's fastest growing economy, is developing a stealth fighter aircraft not unlike our (until now) unique F-22 Raptor aircraft, not to mention their efforts in nuclear technology.

As Elmer Ebersol pointed out years ago, most people admit they can do more, but don't for various reasons. Being more productive is a key to improving a company's bottom line, earning increases in salary, and growing a country's economy.

Current conditions in the US reflect those of 40 years ago. Economic recovery can come, but it requires a solid work ethic and a desire for achieving products and results with the highest quality. The Chinese economy hasn't grown by accident, but by the hard work of people seeking better lives. The US economy needs a trigger, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which not only employed millions, but earned them self-respect while they rebuilt public roads. Recovery can happen again, through hope and hard work.

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