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Of Memory And Growth

Jack Browne
Technical Contributor

How does one properly summarize 50 years of publication for one magazine? Over the past 12 months, Microwaves & RF readers have shared their thoughts with us on this industry's history. In visits to industry companies and at trade shows, we have reminisced with them about companies now gone, about the unique characters who have contributed to this industry, and to some of those good and bad decisions that many of us have made over those years.

Assembling Microwaves & RF's 50th Anniversary Issue last month brought back a flood of memoriesof companies, of people, and even of some of those notorious choices for MTT-S/IMS trade show locations. Ironically, some of the companies that made the most impact on this industry are no longer with us, including Avantek and Watkins-Johnson Co. Some of the technologies that those two companies rolled outsuch as YIG oscillators and filters, discrete semiconductors and integrated circuits (ICs), and even front-end assembliesessentially established high-water marks for other companies to reach. For example, Harvey Kaylie of Mini-Circuits has admitted that he was motivated by those early Watkins-Johnson mixers. Most of the industry at that time used those WJ mixers, either directly or as references for what mixer performance was possible. Mini-Circuits was started on the basis of providing a mixer (and then other components) that could deliver good performance at a fraction of the price.

Companies like Pacific Monolithics helped to build the excitement of their time for exploring the possibilities of GaAs ICs. And when GaAs became widely accepted as the high-frequency semiconductor substrate of choice, designers at Avantek asked "why not silicon?" They went back to silicon epitaxial materials and developed innovative lines of microwave silicon ICs.

Many of the companies now gone that contributed to this industry can be found in the Microwaves & RF 50th Anniversary Issue. Some, such as EEsof, will be remembered as harbingers of things to comein their case, of the growing importance of the computer and design software to the microwave industry. Some smaller companies, such as Omni Spectra, will be associated with the baseline quality they established for microwave connectors. Others, such as Inter-Continental Microwave and founder Werner Schuerch, will be remembered for bringing new levels of accuracy to microwave measurements. And still more, such as Airborne Instruments Laboratories (AIL), may only be remembered as a stopping pointfor the likes of Kaylie (who would leave to start Mini-Circuits) and Aksel Kiiss (who departed to found MITEQ).

Yes, the RF/microwave industry has competition, as well as its share of people who don't like each other. But it also has a unique bond, where people can say "yes, we are part of that strange little niche within electronics." That singular experience has helped us grow over the past 50 years and, hopefully, for many years to come.

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