Proceedings of the IEEE Celebrates a Century

Special editorial features and centennial events are under way

5 March 2012

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Back in 1912, when radio and wireless communications were in their infancy, it would have been hard to imagine the smartphones, high-definition televisions, biomedical advances, and other developments we take for granted today. Those inventions were made possible by breakthroughs during the past 100 years, and one publication­—​Proceedings of the IEEE—has been there for all of them. The journal, which has documented technology’s progress with seminal papers, is celebrating its own milestone this year: a century of publishing.

The journal’s 100th volume is being commemorated through a variety of editorial features and events including a special centennial issue in May, monthly postings of classic Proceedings papers, a competition for predicting future technical innovations, and a Washington, D.C., forum featuring global visionaries.

Even though much has evolved in technology since the first Proceedings issue was published in January 1913, Managing Editor Jim Calder says one thing has remained the same: “Our philosophy. We strive to make Proceedings accessible to all members but also to appeal to specialists. Some people call Proceedings a mini textbook because when you move on to a new job and must learn about a new field, you can read the publication and learn what’s going on. But many people read it just to be well informed.”

Proceedings’ prehistory can be traced to 1909, when it was known as the Proceedings of the Wireless Institute. That New York–based society was for people interested in the new field of wireless engineering. Six issues, edited by radio pioneers Greenleaf Pickard and Alfred N. Goldsmith, were published in 1909.

On 13 May 1912, the Wireless Institute merged with the Boston-based Society of Wireless Telegraph Engineers to become the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE). Wanting to publish their journal for the new society, Pickard and Goldsmith released the first issue of Proceedings of the IRE in January 1913. Goldsmith continued as editor, and Pickard served as president of the IRE that year.

The Proceedings of the IRE became the society’s flagship publication, showcasing papers submitted by its members around the world. The monthly’s discriminating paper selection and thorough peer-review process made it stand out among other scientific journals of the time.

When the IRE merged with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1963 to form IEEE, it was renamed Proceedings of the IEEE. Today it is the most highly cited ​general-­interest journal in electrical and computer engineering.

thirteen issues
This year, 13 Proceedings issues are planned, including the special centennial issue on 13 May. That one will cover the past, present, and future of 20 technical areas selected by the editorial board, Calder says. Included will be articles on a variety of subjects, including wireless communications, space science and exploration, engineering education, consumer electronics, emerging materials science, medical devices, flexible electronics, optical devices, and the search for extraterrestrial life. The issue will include predictions for the future of the technologies discussed as far out as 2112.

Each of the other 12 issues is devoted to a selected topic. In addition, each will include an article from the IEEE History Center highlighting Proceedings’ coverage over the past 100 years. January’s topic was cyberphysical systems and their application to aerospace, automotive, energy, and medical technologies and other areas. Cyberphysical systems use a combination of computational and physical elements.

In February the focus was on sustainable massive energy storage. This month’s issue explores cognitive and behavioral aspects of human decision making in interactions with smart machines.

Topics in the other issues are:

  • Audiovisual communications frontiers
  • Marine energy generation and energy policies
  • Antennas in wireless communications
  • The evolution of optical networking
  • Beyond HDTV: UHDTV and digital cinema
  • Quality-of-life technologies such as wearable health-care devices
  • Remote sensing of natural disasters, including early warning systems
  • Memristor technology
  • Large-scale electro­magnetic computation
  • Web-scale multimedia processing and applications

As part of the centennial celebration, papers from such pioneers as Guglielmo Marconi, Lee de Forest, and Claude Shannon have been posted on the Proceedings website, and more are to be added each month through December.

The classic papers include “The Genesis of the IRE” [Alfred Goldsmith, May 1952], which covers the society’s formation in 1912. “The ENIAC” [John G. Brainerd, February 1948] describes the development of the first general-purpose electronic computer in 1946. Also available are Marconi’s “Radio Telegraphy” [August 1922], Edwin H. Armstrong’s “Some Recent Developments in the Audion Receiver” [September 1915], Karl G. Jansky’s “Electrical Disturbances Apparently of Extraterrestrial Origin” [October 1933], and William Shockley’s “Transistor Electronics: Imperfections, Unipolar and Analog Transistors” [November 1952].

Can you imagine a technical innovation likely to pop up during the next 100 years? Then consider entering the Future Technology Predictions competition. Contestants are asked to write a 1500-word description of a technical development they expect to see, as well as a road map of how current technologies are likely to evolve into the proposed innovation. The Proceedings’ editorial board plans to offer cash honoraria to those who submit the best ideas. Winners will be asked to submit videos in which they describe their ideas, and the results will be posted on the IEEE website.

A centennial forum is scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C., on 27 and 28 September, featuring notable professionals in health care, energy, and other fields.

What will the future bring for Proceedings? Although it might be difficult to predict which new technologies will emerge in the coming years, Calder says one thing is certain: Proceedings will be there to cover them. “Proceedings of the IEEE has staying power,” he says. “Even in a world of specialization, we continue to publish useful information for all IEEE members.”

To help celebrate Proceedings’ centennial year, The Institute is publishing monthly articles highlighting technologies from this year’s 13 issues. You can find them each month on the Tech Topic page. We also plan to report during the year on the centennial competition, the forum, and other anniversary events—so stay tuned.

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