In Memoriam: January 2016

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

26 January 2016

Robert E. Munson

Antenna inventor

Life Member, 74; died 31 August

Munson invented the microstrip antenna, a narrowband, wide-beam version fabricated by etching the antenna elements in a metal trace bonded to an insulating dielectric substrate, such as a printed circuit board. Widely used in the telecommunications industry, microstrip antennas are inexpensive and simple to fabricate.

Munson began his career at Ford’s Aeronutronic Division, in Corona del Mar, Calif., where he developed and built vehicle antennas. In 1967 he left to join the Antenna Division of Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., in Broomfield, Colo. He invented the microstrip antenna there in the mid-1970s and developed several versions for the U.S. military. He retired as chief scientist in 1996.

In the 1970s, he and his wife, Marcy, bought 36 hectares of farmland just outside Boulder, Colo. The family grows produce and sells it from a farm stand in Boulder. They donate roughly 45,000 kilograms of fruits and vegetables each year to Community Food Share, which helps people in need. For his contributions to the community, Munson received the Boulder New Pioneer Award in 2009.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1963 from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and received a master’s degree in EE in 1967 from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.


William Siebert

Professor emeritus

Life Fellow, 89; died 25 October

Siebert was professor emeritus in the electrical engineering and computer science department at MIT.

In the early 1950s he led the radar group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, in Lexington, Mass., where he helped develop the first radar system that could measure a target’s range and velocity. He also researched signal processing and communications system theory and applied those concepts to understand the workings of the human ear.

Later, as a professor at MIT, he helped develop and institute a five-year undergraduate program in engineering. He was named professor emeritus in 2000.

Siebert was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1964. He received the 1988 IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society’s Pioneer Award for “contributions to pulse-compression techniques for radar systems.”

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from MIT in 1946 and 1952.


Malcolm D. Horton

Systems application engineer

Life Fellow, 92; died 4 November

Horton was a systems application engineer at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., for 48 years.

He joined GE in 1945, specializing in large adjustable-speed, electric-motor drive systems for wind tunnels. He also designed large energy-storage systems for laboratories. He retired in 1993 to become a consultant on hydroelectric power systems.

Horton was elevated to Fellow in 1996 for “contributions and leadership in the conception and implementation of high-power adjustable-speed electric- motor drive systems and high-energy pulsed power systems.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1944 from Union College, in Schenectady.


Harwood G. Kolsky

Professor emeritus

Life Senior Member, 94; died 5 November

Kolsky was professor emeritus in the computer engineering department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II and then went back to school to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 1950. The following year he joined Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico.

He left there in 1957 to join IBM in Schenectady, N.Y., where he helped develop the company’s Stretch computer, one of the world’s first supercomputers. He also led research projects in compilation and image processing for meteorological applications. In 1959 he became assistant manager of the company’s Federal Systems Division, in Omaha. In 1962 he led the advanced technology group in IBM’s Advanced Systems Development Division at Los Gatos, Calif. Later he headed projects in programming languages, microprogramming, and digital image processing. He was named an IBM Fellow in 1969.

He retired from the company in 1986 and became a professor of computer engineering at UC Santa Cruz. He was named professor emeritus in 1996 and continued to teach classes in computer architecture and computer history.

Kolsky earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1943 from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.


Gene M. Amdahl

Computing pioneer

Life Fellow, 92; died 10 November

Amdahl was a computer scientist at IBM in Schenectady, N.Y., where he played a crucial role in the early 1960s in developing the company’s 360 series of mainframe computers. He later founded Amdahl Corp., in Sunnyvale, Calif., to build computers compatible in hardware and software with IBM’s 370 series, successors to the 360 machines.

In 1952, while earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Amdahl designed the Wisconsin Integrally Synchronized Computer (WISC), an early digital computer. The following year he joined IBM and was chief architect of the 360 machines, a family of compatible computers whose architecture would influence computer design for years to come. Computers in the 360 series had different speeds and processing power but all understood the same programming language: APL.

He left IBM in 1970 to found Amdahl, which shipped its first machines in 1975. They proved faster and less expensive than IBM’s comparable computers and captured 20 percent of the mainframe computer market. According to The New York Times, Amdahl Corp. was not the first company to make IBM-compatible computers, but it managed to compete successfully against the computer giant where larger companies, like RCA and General Electric, had failed.

In 1979, he started another venture, Trilogy Systems, in Cupertino, Calif., to develop an integrated circuit chip that would allow mainframe computer manufacturers to build their machines more cheaply. The company raised more than US $200 million for its efforts but ultimately failed. He started Andor Corp. in 1987 to compete in the midsize mainframe market; the company went bankrupt in 1995. The following year, at age 74, Amdahl started a fourth business, Commercial Data Servers, a data protection company in Menlo Park, Calif. CDS continues to this day as Xbridge Systems.

Amdahl, a member of the IEEE Computer Society, was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1970 for his contributions to the design of large-scale digital computers.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1948 from South Dakota State University, in Brookings.

To learn more about Amdahl’s career and contributions, visit the Engineering and Technology History Wiki.

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