In Search Of Lost Time

Memory can be deceptive. Especially as we grow older, it is easier to "color" pictures of the past in a certain way. At times, the remembrance may be complimentaryat other times, negative. Only those who are truly objective can recall their personal history with impartiality, clarity, and precision.

In particular, while assembling more "looks back" in celebration of Microwaves & RF's 50 years of service, the report on amplifiers evoked strong memories of this industry 25 to 30 years ago. To say it was different then would be quite the understatement. As that amplifier report notes, some of the technology giants of those timeslike avantek and Watkins-Johnsonsimply no longer exist.

In their time, they were groundbreakers in so many technologies, including amplifiers and transistors such as gallium arsenide (GaAs). The legacies of their technologies continue in many other companies, true. But in their time, they were truly giantsand the passage of time can make it easier to forget their contributions to this industry.

Many other companies were involved in device and amplifier research in those early years, such as RCA and Bell Labs, Raytheon, and the Electron Dynamics Division of Hughes Aircraft Company. This latter group, located in Torrance, CA, was as innovative in vacuum electronics as they were in solid-state devices, some of which were even meant to replace the vacuum tubesor "valves," as they were commonly known.

To the north, in the "peninsula" area south of San Francisco, other companies that performed dual-edged research on both vacuum electronics and solid-state devices were Litton Industries' Electron Dynamics Division (now part of L-3 Communications) and Varian Associates' Solid-State division. Both contributed to the development of solid-state devices, even as they continued with vacuum electronics.

In terms of this industry's solid-state electronics development, the history timelines are somewhat fragmented. Companies that played such key roles in the adoption of the silicon MOSFETAcrian and Siliconix, for exampleare no more. (Siliconix is now part of Vishay Intertechnology.) Some organizations that were such driving forces in promoting a technology like MOSFETs, such as Motorola Semiconductor, morphed into other companies (Freescale Semiconductor).

The list of companies now gone that contributed to RF/microwave semiconductors is long, and includes Communications Transistor Corp. (CTC), Polyfet RF Devices, and Thomson-CSF. Others, such as Philips Semiconductors, had name changes (to NXP Semiconductors), all lending to a sense of "lost time" in the history.

In Marcel Proust's life's work, Remembrance of Things Past (more properly translated from the French as "In Search of Lost time"), he reminds us that our memory can betray us. In terms of this industry, memories, companies, and their people can also be forgottenmany of which are well worth remembering.

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