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Thank Goodness for the Innovators!

Dec. 6, 2023
Today’s industry innovations aren’t as earth-shaking as the transistor and the IC, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Innovation—the theme of our forthcoming special "Innovators" issue of Microwaves & RF—is the lifeblood of the industry. Imagine where we’d be if William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain of Bell Labs hadn’t bothered to cobble together their point-contact transistor in 1947? The latter two, under the supervision of the former, were hoping to turn into reality something physicists had pondered since the 1920s. It’s likely they didn’t see their work as revolutionary as it happened. They were only hoping to make a better amplifier that drew less power than vacuum tubes.

Then, 11 years hence, Texas Instruments’ Jack Kilby wanted to work out how to connect a few transistors while making them much smaller and more efficient. In 1959, TI filed a patent application for the “miniaturized electronic circuit,” and the integrated circuit (IC) was born. Kilby got the patent for the concept, but Fairchild Semiconductor’s Bob Noyce came up with the planar manufacturing process that made ICs take off. The rest, as we say, is history.

With all of the progress in the ensuing decades, it’s become less commonplace for innovations in electronics to be quite as earth-shattering as the invention of the transistor and IC. That doesn’t insinuate they’re not important in the modern context. In this issue, we’ll look at the impact wireless technologies are having across a range of industries, as well as some of the innovative technologies that will propel the RF and microwave industry forward in coming years.

For example, the extension of 5G networks into the mmWave portion of the spectrum will be a boon to the aerospace and defense markets. We’ll be safer on the roads by virtue of improving advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication links. And materials science continues to support the growth of wireless technologies through 3D printing of dielectrics, optimized dielectric constants in substrates, and more.

We hope you’ll enjoy this special Innovators issue of Microwaves & RF as much as we did in putting it together.