Documents Offer Windows on the Beginning

More than 100 journals now digitized

7 April 2008

The iPod, flat-panel TV, and the MacBook Air may be the gadgets of the moment. But have you ever wondered how those gadgets of yesteryear—radio, TV, and the transistor—got their start?

Tracking that ancient history has gotten a lot simpler over the past year as the IEEE scanned, digitized, and uploaded more than 90 000 historical documents into the IEEE Xplore digital library. This brought the total of old documents added to the library by the end of 2007 to 237 000.

In 2003, the IEEE set out to digitize all of its journals back to their very first issues. First to be digitized were issues from as early as the 1950s and in 2005 the IEEE began digitizing issues back to their very beginnings [see Journals to be Digitized Dating Back to Volume 1, Number 1, December 2005, p. 4]. All told, these articles came from more than 100 journals dating to the early 20th century, including the flagship journal of one of the IEEE’s predecessor organizations, the Institute of Radio Engineers.

In the issues of the Proceedings of the IRE from 1913 to 1962 are dozens of seminal papers that describe those historic devices.

One of the oldest articles comes from the inventor of FM radio, Edwin H. Armstrong. His paper in the September 1915 issue of Proceedings of the IRE covered regenerative oscillation in an audion tube, forerunner of the triode, which can increase the selectivity and sensitivity of a simple receiver. That article convinced Louis Alan Hazeltine, president in 1936 of the IRE, to enter the radio field early in his career, wrote Jim Brittain, the IEEE Proceedings’ associate editor for history, in “The Way We Were—Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers Is Your Legacy!” The January 2008 article in Proceedings of the IEEE highlighted the journal’s history.

Many articles in the 1930s focused on advancements in a then little-known television field. The January 1934 issue featured a paper by Vladimir K. Zworykin that detailed an all-electronic transmitter using an iconoscope, a tube he invented. He predicted in the article that the tube would lead to “high-grade” television transmission, and he proved correct. That invention laid the foundation of modern television.

For the development of the transistor, check out Proceedings of the IRE’s November 1952 issue, which covered the evolution of transistors, the first time a Proceedings issue was devoted to a single theme. IEEE Fellow William Shockley, one of the three Bell Telephone Laboratories researchers credited with inventing the transistor, contributed two papers to that issue. Shockley, Walter Brattain, and John Bardeen were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956 for their research in semiconductors and discovery of the transistor effect.

Other uploaded articles came from journals that include the IEEE Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing Newsletter; IEEE Control Systems Magazine; IEEE Electron Device Letters; IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics; IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems; IEEE Computer Magazine, and papers from various IEEE conferences, such as the European Solid-state Circuits and Device Research conferences dating back to 1953.

These historic articles are available in the IEEE Xplore digital library, at

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