November 1957 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Contrary to the claim
in this Bell Telephone Laboratories promotional piece from a 1957 issue of Radio-Electronics
magazine, according to the Wikipedia entry for the traveling wave tube (TWT) was
invented in 1931 by
Andrei "Andy" Haeff while he was working as a doctoral student at the Kellogg
Radiation Laboratory at Caltech. His original patent, "Device for and Method of
Controlling High Frequency Currents," was granted in 1936 (US2064469A).
Bell gives credit to Dr. Rudolf Kompfner. The TWT's wide bandwidth, 500 MHz
in this case - was heralded as a major breakthrough for supporting the rapidly growing
microwave relay network spanning the country, vastly increasing the number of
concurrent telephone connections. By that time (1957) transcontinental video broadcasts
were also being made thanks to the system. It would still be half a decade before
satellites (e.g., Telstar) would
be available for long distance communications.
A Great Amplifier Tube is Perfected for Telephony
A new transcontinental microwave system
capable of carrying four times as much information as any previous microwave system
is under development at Bell Laboratories. A master key to this development is a
new traveling-wave tube of large frequency bandwidth.
The traveling-wave amplifying principle was discovered in England by Dr. Rudolf
Kompfner, who is now at Bell Laboratories; the fundamental theory was largely developed
by Labs scientist Dr. John Pierce. Subsequently the tube has been utilized in various
ways both here and abroad. At the Laboratories it has been perfected to meet the
exacting performance standards of long distance telephony. And now for the first
time a traveling-wave tube will go into large-scale production for use in our nation's
The new amplifier's tremendous bandwidth greatly simplifies the practical problem
of operating and maintaining microwave communications. For example, in the proposed
transcontinental system, as many as 16 different one-way radio channels will be
used to transmit a capacity load of more than 11,000 conversations or 12 television
programs and 2500 conversations. Formerly it would have been necessary to tune several
amplifier tubes to match each channel. In contrast, a single traveling-wave tube
can supply all the amplification needed for a channel. Tubes can be interchanged
with only very minor adjustments.
The new amplifier is another example of how Bell Laboratories research creates
new devices and new systems for telephony.
Left: A traveling-wave tube. Right: Tube being placed in position between the
permanent magnets which focus the electron beam. The tube supplies uniform and distortionless
amplification of FM signals over a 500 Mc band. It will be used to deliver an output
of five watts.
Bell Telephone Laboratories
World Center of Communications Research and Development
Posted May 3, 2022