February 1969 Electronics World
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
Electronics World, published May 1959
- December 1971. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Reading through the news items in
the vintage electronics magazines provides a mixture of important historical facts and figures
along with some predictions on the future of the industry. Some of the predictions turn out
to be amazingly accurate, even though in retrospect they might seem obvious. Take, for example,
Sylvania VP Dr. Robert Castor's foresight about how, "the future growth of the semiconductor
industry lies in a major switch from the production of individual components to solid-state
subsystems that can be used as building blocks in electronic designs." "Well of course," you
might be temped to say; however, at the time there were still significant hurdles to overcome
related to material purity, wafer size, photolithography, packaging, reliability, etc. There
was also the ever-present resistance to change by designers comfortable with circuit boards
packed with discrete transistors, resistors, and capacitors. Inertial navigation systems were
making their debut on commercial airliners at the time. Battery technology improvements were
in full swing in the 1960 and 1970s as transistorized products enabled a new level of portability;
Li-Po cells weren't even on the drawing board - literally (pencil and paper, no CAD) - at
the time. If you think self-driving cars and automated highways are the brainspawn of Elon
Musk and Jeff Bezos, take a look herein.
Reflections on the News
The entire semiconductor industry is changing its face. According to Dr. Robert C. Castor,
Vice-President and General Manager of Sylvania's Semiconductor Division, "the future growth
of the semiconductor industry lies in a major switch from the production of individual components
to solid-state subsystems that can be used as building blocks in electronic designs." Dr.
Castor, who is one of the most respected industry analysts, estimated the subsystem market
could be as much as 50% of total industry sales by 1973, and at that time sales should reach
a record $1.65 billion level.
Apollo Spacecraft ...
whipping around the moon and earth are guided by a super inertial navigation system manufactured
by the AC Electronics Division of General Motors. Working with a special digital computer
developed by Raytheon, the system uses gyros and accelerometers to measure changes in the
spacecraft's attitude and speed and uses the data to steer the ship to and from the moon.
A sophisticated precision sextant and scanning telescope, produced by Kollsman Instrument
Corp., updates the inertial system in flight.
Less sophisticated, but perhaps more important to everyday, earthbound travelers, is the
Carosel IV, which AC claims is the first inertial navigation system built as an integral part
of a commercial aircraft's avionic subsystem. According to AC, the Carosel IV will provide
the 490-passenger Boeing Jumbo Jet 747, with high-precision, fully automatic all-weather navigation
between any number of points on earth. An earlier navigation system, the SGN-10 built by Sperry
Gyroscope Co., scheduled for installation aboard Pan American 707 aircraft, was scrapped when
Sperry couldn't meet production schedules and Pan Am claimed the system was too unreliable
as well as too inaccurate. AC says its system falls within the maximum FAA error limits 95%
of the time - an acceptable standard.
Meanwhile, all the buzzing about the AC system is stirring up the old pilot-airline-FAA
over ocean air-corridor controversy. The FAA and airlines would like to cut the space around
the plane from 120 to 90, or even 60 miles. This allows more planes in the air at one time,
a help during peak hours. World Airlines Inc. was fined $5000 for not having a precise navigation
system on board one of its planes which strayed over Soviet territory and was forced down
with 214 soldiers aboard. Perhaps an inertial system could have helped.
have been notoriously unreliable. Many units touted to be good for months, and even years,
have failed after a few hours or days of operation. According to battery manufacturers, the
big problem has been and, as a matter of fact still is, temperature changes or rather environmental
changes. What happens is that batteries are tested in the lab to meet certain specifications
(incidentally most military units are tested to the same specs as commercial devices) where
they pass with flying colors. It's another matter when the battery is in the field - it fails.
Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. has developed a thermal battery which it claims
has a storage life of five years compared to two-to-three years for ordinary batteries.
Here's what the company claims - operating temperature of -54° to +71° C compared
to -10° to +60° for conventional batteries. The big news is that it is available for
the commercial market. Heretofore, any batteries of this type have been earmarked strictly
for military. The device has an open-circuit voltage of 38 volts. It measures 58 mm in diameter
and 47 mm high, excluding terminals.
The Toy Industry ...
is one of the last places where a man with a hot idea and a few dollars can make money
quickly - or lose it. And according to the magazine "Engineer," a publication of the Engineers
Joint Council, some 1200 toy manufacturers do almost $2-billion business each year. These
companies employ a large number of engineers - some electronic, but mostly mechanical and
industrial types - to do R&D and create new mechanisms and product designs.
Perhaps it's not strange that the toy industry is also one of the most cost conscious of
all industries. It is constantly looking at new technologies in a way that benefits other
industries as well as the toy business. And they investigate every conceivable material and
device which in any way might bring costs down. Electronics, optics, audio techniques, and
even fluidics (which has not even gained public acceptance) are all utilized. Other advanced
technologies still on the drawing boards of many companies - liquid crystals, for example
- are being studied for playtime possibilities. Holography anyone?
Are Automated Highways ...
around the corner? Some people at the General Motors Research Laboratories think they might
be and have developed ERGS II (Experimental Route Guidance System) to provide drivers with
automatic, high-quality routing instructions at certain decision points along highways or
city streets. The work which is being done for the Federal Highway Administration, is aimed
at determining whether route guidance can increase safety and reduce trip time, routing errors,
and driver stress.
Essentially, ERGS II is a two-way communications and logic system where the car is a rolling
transmitter that broadcasts its movements to a fixed station at certain intersections along
the right-of-way. Here's what happens. When a driver leaves on a trip, he uses a five-letter
code word to enter his destination on a console in the car. As the car approaches an instrumented
intersection, the console automatically transmits the destination to roadside equipment where
the code is processed and appropriate routing instructions are transmitted back to the car
and displayed on a dashboard message panel. The entire transaction, which requires only a
few milliseconds, is repeated at each instrumented intersection until the driver reaches his
The important thing about this new development is its potential for improving highway safety.
Often serious accidents are caused by drivers missing turns and backing against traffic, etc.
Hopefully, the dashboard display with its large alphanumeric symbols will provide an easily
interpreted method for presenting routing information to drivers.
Computers and Television ...
team up in a new program by the University of California at Los Angeles and General Electric
Co., which is designed to improve highway safety.
Working together, the University and company have developed a technique called Computed
Perspective Image Generation. Computers are linked to the accelerator, brake pedal, steering
wheel, and other instruments inside a mock-up car. These provide inputs for a master computer
which, in turn, controls the projection of real life events on a gigantic television screen.
No cameras, films, or models are used. The entire highway environment, which includes moving
cars and people, is computer-generated and displayed on a screen in front of the driver who
sees the simulated roadway as though he were looking through his car's windshield.
always an important, though vague, area of military operations will receive more emphasis
in Army plans for the future. The removal of the distinction between strategic and tactical
communications networks is being pushed and a master plan involving the Army Air Force in
tactical field communications work is being pressed. The new role for communications was spotlighted
at a recent classified briefing for industry held by the EIA and the Army Command. According
to one manufacturer attending the conference, "The Army is the big customer for future communications
equipment." This should make a lot of manufacturers happy, especially since Russell D. O'Neal,
Assistant of the Army for R&D, estimates that total Army electronics procurement will
reach $730-million in fiscal 1969.
Some Thoughts ...
about thinzs going on ... Large-scale integration throws most of the old semiconductor
reliability concepts out the window. Present testing techniques are inadequate because they
do not include failure rate per failure mode as a function of time, and do not allow for variations
in the manufacturer's line .... Ampex plunges into the data handling market with its Videofile
system. The system with its six basic units - television camera, video tape recorder, buffer,
remote display terminal, electrostatic printer, and control center - has applications in business
and government for storage and retrieval of graphic material which cannot be digitized economically
or microfilmed .... Looking ahead to the end of big military spending, Bendix Corp. is shifting
emphasis to non-government markets, according to A. P. Fontaine, the company president. Bendix
expects $2-billion in non-government sales by 1971.
Posted November 20, 2017