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Microwave Evolution
March 1952 Radio-Electronics Article

March 1952 Radio-Electronics

March 1952 Radio-Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[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.

Microwave Evolution

Microwave Evolution, March 1952 Radio-Electronics - RF Cafe... New means for quick, efficient, low-price communication ...

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

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