March 1952 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.
Hugo Gernsback, publisher
of Radio-Electronics magazine (and others), made the following prediction
in a 1952 issue, "Microwaves for industry and commerce are bound to expand enormously
in the foreseeable future." That might seem a little obvious at this point, but
as with nearly all emerging technologies, there were a lot of naysayers who believed
the relatively limited range and high infrastructure cost of microwave communication
relay systems would prevent it from being widely adopted for anything other than
specialty applications (i.e., those with large budgets like defense and research).
Fortunately, enthusiasts persisted and the microwave industry blossomed, just as
was the case when cellular telephone system infrastructure started in the 1990's.
If you are interested in the history of wireless communications, this piece will
be an interesting read.
... New means for quick, efficient, low-price
By Hugo Gernsback
Industry and commerce today more and more require ultrafast communication. This
is particularly true of our big industries and corporations which must have instantaneous
service between branches, their factories, and elsewhere, when seconds saved are
often of the utmost importance. The telephone, the telegraph are no longer quick
enough and in some ways are too costly. Even radio communication through independent
communication companies has become far too slow.
Hence, many of our larger corporations have installed their own communication
systems, taking advantage of the flexibility and comparative low cost of modern
microwaves. These microwave (u.h.f.) private networks operate on frequencies from
about 950 to 5000 mc.
Nearly 150 of our large corporations, many of which are oil companies, use the
u.h.f. networks not only for communications but also to telemeter, run teletypes,
open and close distant switches, operate direct phone networks and many other similar
services. The corporations have their own private operators and their systems therefore
are self-contained in all respects. Many of them maintain twenty-four-hour microwave
service, every day of the week.
Microwaves are highly attractive because their use is far more economical than
using telegraph or telephone lines, as was the case in older private communication
systems. The cost per mile is less than half with microwaves and the maintenance
cost is very low. During sleet storms and hurricanes wire-line damages run high,
whereas with microwaves the communication towers are anywhere from twenty-five to
fifty miles apart, cutting maintenance costs sharply.
It is interesting to note that even old-time corporations such as Western Union,
which at one time relied mainly on pole wire lines and for years operated in the
red, finally began making a profit when they switched to microwaves. Western Union
is now busily engaged in extending its microwave system throughout the country,
at a huge saving in maintenance and operating costs.
To date, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company is the largest user of
the microwaves, having pioneered in it over many years. The recent successful completion
of their coast to coast network uses microwaves not only - as is often erroneously
thought - for television, but more for multiplex phone communication from coast
to coast besides other services of the corporation. Microwaves are so flexible that
a single channel can carry up to 2500 simultaneous messages, against 1800 on the
older (and more costly) coaxial cable.
But microwave channels are not used solely by our large corporations, One of
the important new users is the recently opened New Jersey Turnpike, operated by
the State of New Jersey. This new toll superhighway operates its own statewide network
on 960 mc. The system now has seven microwave towers, each about one hundred and
fifty feet high. These have been erected near Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton. Bordentown,
Moorestown, and Swedesboro. Two towers have been erected near Newark.
The system consists of a voice channel which monitors the entire system. There
is also a dial phone for administrative calls as well as two voice channels used
for communication with state police cars and maintenance trucks. In addition to
this, there is also a teletype one-party line. An innovation is that it is possible
to cover the entire length of the new turnpike with two-way mobile coverage for
instant communication. This is effected by having a number of v.h.f. base stations
at five of the system's seven microwave towers for communicating with the vehicles.
The system is so well integrated that the dial phones and teletypes can link the
police for the entire length of the turnpike with one another as well as with the
state police headquarters in Trenton. The same is the case with state troopers,
maintenance trucks and all toll gates along the road. Over $100,000 has so far been
expended on this new microwave communication network.
Another highway system now making use of microwave communication is the Pennsylvania
Turnpike Commission, whose system is similar to that of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Another user, at present experimenting with microwaves in the Northwest, is the
Bonneville Power Administration. The versatile waves will be used by Bonneville
to monitor its power lines, compute the location of line breaks, and automatically
record the time of the failure.
The Atomic Energy Commission is another newcomer which requires microwaves chiefly
for remote control purposes. Due to the fact that atomic workers cannot be exposed
to dangerous radiations, many atomic plants must be operated from a distance. This
is a most complex undertaking, because many of the operations must be checked and
double-checked without any human being on the spot to supervise plant operation
and other facilities. Through a variety of interlocking devices, microwaves furnish
the key for safe operation. In fact they can do anything that humans do - and often
do tasks impossible for humans. This particular branch of microwaves is due for
great future expansion.
But to date, numerically the oil companies are in the advance guard as users
of microwaves. In the telemetering and supervision of their long pipelines, opening
and closing distant valves, controlling pressures in pipes, starting and stopping
pumps, getting reports on distant oil flow, the oil companies have found a most
versatile tool in microwaves. Such companies as the Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company
obtains automatic reports on distant gas pressure, gas flow, metering, etc., by
microwave. The Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Corporation is now considering installation
of a microwave system for its new 1,800-mile pipeline from Texas to New York. Most
of the large pipelines are certain to follow suit in the near future.
All in all, microwaves for industry and commerce are bound to expand enormously
in the foreseeable future, with expenditures for installation alone running into
tens of millions of dollars.
Posted July 19, 2022