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News Briefs
September 1963 Radio-Electronics

September 1963 Radio-Electronics

September 1963 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.

When this 1963 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine was published, scientists were at the early stages of understanding the ionosphere. We tend to take our knowledge of it for granted now because so much has been learned about it in the subsequent six decades. In April of 1961, Russia launched Yuri Gagarin into space, traversing the ionosphere to attain a 200-mile orbital altitude. The ionosphere ranges between about 50 and 400 miles high, depending on solar activity. Charge data was/is necessary in order to take proper precautions for shielding electronics and life from its potentially (pun intended) harmful effects. Sounding rockets were a major player in the investigation. Moving on, the comments made by Bell Lab's research directory John R. Pierce regarding the usefulness of a computer for data retrieval (versus data calculation) are great fodder for some of the world's stupidest proclamations. Read on to see what I mean. Finally, the numerical prefixes "femto" (10-15) and "atto" (10-18) had just been added to the lexicon of science and mathematics.

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News Briefs

News Briefs, September 1963 Radio-Electronics - RF CafeIonosphere's Creation Watched by Instruments

NASA's instruments have measured a solar radiation line in the ionosphere - the blanket of electrified particles that makes radio communication possible - during the flight of a Nike-Apache sounding rocket, and have thereby taken a major step toward understanding the earth's atmosphere.

Scientists have long believed that intense solar ultraviolet and x-radiations bombarding the earth's atmosphere were producing ionization - in fact, creating the ionosphere. During the recent flight, the instruments measured a hydrogen element line. Its radiation was observed being absorbed between 44 and 55 miles in the D-region (lowest layer of the ionosphere). At 44 miles, other instruments recorded an increase in electrons, proving that ionization had taken place. The instruments had witnessed a part of the ionosphere's creation!

Eventually, NASA satellites may be equipped to monitor many specific incoming radiations, and man will know the condition of his ionosphere at all times.

Fanatics Flatter Computers, Says Dr. John Pierce

Many predictions about the computer's role in communications and information gathering were called "irresponsible" and the work of "fanatics" by John R. Pierce, executive director of research of Bell Telephone Labs.

Mr. Pierce spoke at dedication ceremonies for the new $2,000,000 John Crerar Library Building on the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology.

Painting a dismal picture of the relation of computers to libraries, he spoke of "the stupid computer, which is unable to understand spoken English ... to get at relations between words of English ... even to translate from one language to another as well ... as people can." A computer used for document retrieval, he said, "would smother the user under the flood of information and misinformation it would produce."

Certain library operations can be performed efficiently by computers, he stated, pointing out the indexing system programmed at Bell Labs. But the "talk of revolution, of which we have heard so much, is largely idle fancy, based on no thoughtful examination of the problems that actually face libraries."

New Terms Adopted

To ease the naming of even smaller quantities, the International Committee on Weights and Measures has adopted two new prefixes. They are "femto" (10-15) symbol "f" and "atto" (10-18) symbol "a". Also the symbol for "deka" has been changed to "da". Here's the revised list:

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Posted October 2, 2023

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