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Radar Secrets Revealed - Newsreel Videos for Engineers
a century ago, radar was still a mystery to most people. Radio in general was still a mystery for that matter.
Today, radio and radar are still mysteries to most people, it is just that today the devices are ubiquitous - even
if the people do not realize what miracles of engineering they are. Radar played a crucial role in pushing back
Axis forces during World War II. Not only did it afford advanced notice and estimation of air force sizes many
miles in advance of their approaches, but it also warned of land and sea forces. Surprise attacks above the clouds
or within fog and rain were no longer tactics that could be assumed to be successful.
In trademark form
from the WWII era, this newsreel titled "Radar Secrets Revealed" presents a high level demonstration of how the
early radars functioned, complete with motivational music and enthusiastic, deep-voiced narration. I almost felt
an obligation to stand at attention while watching it.
As with any of the films of the era, if you are
privy to the details of the featured technology, you have to be amazed at the ingenuity of the developers and the
skill of the operators. Early radar scopes were not the nifty large, round, color-coded displays we are familiar
with today. Rather, they were small, basic cathode ray tubes (CRTs - remember them?), with a low-tech trace that
plotted signal strength against the time scale. Operators would compare signal strength to the distance (time) and
try to discern whether it represents a single large craft or multiple smaller craft; i.e., a bomber with a couple
escorts, or an entire squadron of attack planes. The relatively low frequencies where the radars operated limited
Modern radars are able to exploit many techniques for target optimization, including
frequency agility, target tracking, and sophisticated signal processing that in many cases can identify the type
of object being detected.