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Mathematics in Radio (part 20)
March 1933 Radio News

March 1933 Radio News

March 1933 Radio News Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

It has been a while since I saw the quotient rule for derivatives applied. Probably the last time was in a college text book, because I'm pretty sure I haven't had the occasion to use it since then - except maybe back in the days when I was writing my RF Workbench software and needed to derive closed form solutions for group delay in filters. This 1933 article from Radio News magazine presented the quotient rule as part of a discussion for finding the impedance of a load for maximum power transfer. Pure resistances were used in the example, but the method applies as well to complex impedances. 

See also National Radio Institute advertisement, December 1954 Radio News; Mathematics in Radio in July 1932 Radio News; Measuring Inductance and Capacity, June 1931 Radio-Craft; Mathematics in Radio, March 1933 Radio News; Radio Frequencies and Their Allocation, June | July 1940 National Radio News; Your Radio Training and the Defense Program, December 1940 | January 1941 National Radio News.

Calculus and Its Application in Radio - Part Twenty

By J. E. Smith*

Series resistor network - RF Cafe

Figure 1 - Series resistor network.

Power curve - RF Cafe

Figure 2 - Power curve.

Tangents to a curve - RF Cafe

Figure 3 - Tangents to a curve.

In order to prove a very important and fundamental relation in the application of calculus to radio circuits, let us investigate the simple series circuit of Figure 1. The current through this circuit is:

(1) Equation 1 - RF Cafe

The power delivered to the output resistance r is:

(2) p2 = i2 R

Now, from (1):

(3) Equation 3 - RF Cafe

and substituting this value of i2 in (2) we have :

(4) Equation 4 - RF Cafe

In the above equation, let e = 1 and r0 = 10 ohms. Tabulating the results of p2 for various values of r, we have:

When r = 0, the corresponding value of p2 = 0

When r = 1, the corresponding value of p2 = Equation r = 1 - RF Cafe

When r = 5, the corresponding value of p2 = Equation r = 5 - RF Cafe

When r = 10, the corresponding value of p2 = Equation r = 10 - RF Cafe

When r = 12, the corresponding value of p2 = Equation r = 12 - RF Cafe

When r = 15, the corresponding value of p2 = Equation r = 15 - RF Cafe

When r = 20, the corresponding value of p2 = Equation r = 20 - RF Cafe

Plotting these values graphically as shown in Figure 2, we find that the maximum power occurs when the output resistance r is equal to 10 ohms. But this was also the value for the resistance r0, so it can be concluded that the maximum power in an output resistance in a circuit similar to Figure 1 is obtained when the output resistance is equal to the internal resistances of the other parts of the circuit r0.

In this simple case it was rather easy to plot the values of the variables and note the condition of maximum power. But there are many equations which are rather involved and where this method would be rather inconvenient. Let us investigate the possible use of calculus for solving this type of problem. It will be necessary at this time to point out a few additional and simple theorems of the fundamental calculus. Let us refer to the curve of Figure 3, which is similar to the one shown in the previous figure. The direction of such a curve at any point can be defined to be the same as the direction of the line tangent to the curve at that point. Therefore, a line PT tangent to the curve at point A will have an angle expressed as follows:

   Equation tangent - RF Cafe

We have previously learned that this is represented as the slope and is the value of the derivative at that point. It will be noticed that as the function is increasing, this tangent line will in general be making an acute angle with the axis of x. It will be equal to a positive number, since the sin θ = 0, and cos θ = a are in the first quadrant and have positive values:


   Equation derivative - RF Cafe

When the function is decreasing, a tangent line drawn at any point such as C in Figure 3 will be making an obtuse angle "θ" with the axis of x. It will therefore be equal to a negative number; thus:

   Equation P2 - RF Cafe

From the above analysis, since the derivative is a positive number up to the maximum point of the curve and a negative number beyond this point, it follows that at the maximum point it must be equal to zero.

This very important relation gives us a method of solving the following equation for the appropriate value of r.

(a)  Equation derivative P2 - RF Cafe

In order that the power p2 become a maximum, it follows:

(b)  Equation P2 voltage - RF Cafe



(c)   - RF Cafe

The solution of equation c appears to be a little complicated, but it is simply an application of the elementary forms of differentiation. Showing the intermediate steps of the solution, we have, first, the derivative of a quotient which is of the form:

   Qutient Rule - RF Cafe 

Solving:(d)   - RF Cafe 


Second, it will be recalled:

   First derivative - RF Cafe 

Then (d) becomes:

(e)  Derivative - RF Cafe

This becomes:

(f)  Solution - RF Cafe


* President, National Radio Institute.



Posted December 3, 2021
(updated from original post on 3/25/2014)

About RF Cafe

Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster

1996 - 2024


Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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