A Nonlinear History of Radio

This highly nonlinear history of radio touches briefly on just some of the main stories, and provides pointers to the literature for those who want to probe further.

Integrated circuit engineers have the luxury of taking for granted that the incremental cost of a transistor is essentially zero, and this has led to the high-device-count circuits that are common today. Of course, this situation is a relatively recent development; during most of the history of electronics, the economics of circuit design were the inverse of what they are today. It really wasn’t all that long ago when an engineer was forced by the relatively high cost of active devices to try to get blood (or at least rectification) from a stone. And it is indeed remarkable just how much performance radio pioneers were able to squeeze out of just a handful of components. For example, we’ll see how American radio genius Edwin Armstrong devised circuits in the early 1920’s that trade log of gain for bandwidth, contrary to the conventional wisdom that gain and bandwidth should trade off more or less directly. And we’ll see that at the same time Armstrong was developing those circuits, self-taught Soviet radio engineer Oleg Losev was experimenting with blue LEDs and constructing completely solid-state radios that functioned up to 5MHz, a quarter century before the transistor was invented. These fascinating stories are rarely told because they tend to fall into the cracks between history and engineering curricula. Somebody ought to tell these stories, though, since in so doing, many commonly-asked questions get answered automatically. This highly nonlinear history of radio touches briefly on just some of the main stories, and provides pointers to the literature for those who want to probe further. (local archive PDF)

http://www-smirc.stanford.edu/papers/chapter1.pdf

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *