IEEE
You are not logged in, please sign in to edit > Log in / create account  

Oral-History:Art Fong

From GHN

(Difference between revisions)
Jump to: navigation, search
(Further reading)
(24 intermediate revisions by 5 users not shown)
Line 1: Line 1:
 
== About Art Fong  ==
 
== About Art Fong  ==
  
Fong received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1943 and went straight to work at the Rad Lab. He worked in the test equipment group under Frank Gaffney. He worked on a high-speed oscilloscope, called a “synchroscope;” signal generators; thermistor mounts; attenuators; and significantly improved spectrum analyzers. Fong notes more secrecy than most interviewees, though he still got plenty of advice from Britton Chance, among others. He records very little manufacturer input in making working equipment: Rad Lab sent designs, the companies basically copied. After the war he went to work for Hewlett-Packard designing test equipment, particularly for microwaves.  
+
Fong received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1943 and went straight to work at the [[MIT Rad Lab|Rad Lab]]. He worked in the test equipment group under Frank Gaffney. He worked on a high-speed oscilloscope, called a “synchroscope;” signal generators; thermistor mounts; attenuators; and significantly improved spectrum analyzers. Fong notes more secrecy than most interviewees, though he still got plenty of advice from [[Oral-History:Britton Chance|Britton Chance]], among others. He records very little manufacturer input in making working equipment: Rad Lab sent designs, the companies basically copied. After the war he went to work for [[William R. Hewlett|Hewlett]]-[[David Packard|Packard]] designing test equipment, particularly for microwaves. He retired from Hewlett-Packard in 1996 after 32 years as a Senior Staff Engineer, the company's highest technical position. Fong died 17 May 2012, aged 92.  
  
In his interview, Fong describes the project engineers used to adapt existing components and resources to new equipment. The engineers were responsible for developing the testing equipment after the new technology was introduced. He served in group 55 under Frank Gaffney, and in group 55.2. After Rad Lab, Fong worked briefly at Browning Labs. Later he moved to Palo Alto, California after he was invited to join Hewlett Packard.  
+
In his interview, Fong describes the project engineers used to adapt existing components and resources to new equipment. The engineers were responsible for developing the testing equipment after the new technology was introduced. He served in group 55 under Frank Gaffney, and in group 55.2. After Rad Lab, Fong worked briefly at Browning Labs. Later he moved to Palo Alto, California after he was invited to join Hewlett Packard.
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
== About the Interview  ==
 
== About the Interview  ==
Line 11: Line 9:
 
Art Fong: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, 13 June 1991  
 
Art Fong: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, 13 June 1991  
  
Interview # 092 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
+
Interview # 092 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
== Copyright Statement  ==
 
== Copyright Statement  ==
Line 19: Line 15:
 
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
 
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
+
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
  
Art Fong, an oral history conducted in 1991 by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
+
Art Fong, an oral history conducted in 1991 by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center,&nbsp; New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
  
<br>
+
== Interview  ==
  
== Interview ==
+
Interview: Art Fong
 +
 
 +
Interviewer: Andrew Goldstein
  
Interview: Art Fong <br>Interviewer: Andrew Goldstein <br>Date: 13 June 1991 <br>Location: Boston, Massachusetts
+
Date: 13 June 1991  
  
<br>
+
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  
 
=== Recruitment to Rad Lab  ===
 
=== Recruitment to Rad Lab  ===
Line 37: Line 35:
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
  
This is Andy Goldstein interviewing Art Fong on June 13, 1991 at the Haines Convention Center. Mr. Fong, let me thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I'd like to start by asking you to describe your educational background and work history before coming to the Rad Lab.  
+
This is Andy Goldstein interviewing Art Fong on June 13, 1991 at the Haines Convention Center. Mr. Fong, let me thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I'd like to start by asking you to describe your educational background and work history before coming to the [[MIT Rad Lab|Rad Lab]].  
  
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in February of 1943 and came to the MIT Rad Lab almost immediately. In fact, I graduated and did not stay around for the graduation ceremony. I got married and took my new bride across country on a train and ended up in Boston. We stayed at the Gardiner Hotel and I walked across the Charles River Bridge to MIT and saw Dr. Loomis, who interviewed me. One of the questions he asked was, what sort of experience have you had? I did some work on high-speed oscilloscopes while I was at Cal-Berkeley. I also worked for three years at the Los Angeles Power &amp; Light in their test labs. I told him. He said, "We don't have many people who are in the test area, and we'd like to have you join our test equipment group." That was Group 55. Frank Gaffney, who was heading up that group, said they were looking for people. It was a fairly new group actually. I joined Group 55. It turned out that designing test equipment was the rest of my 50-year career.  
+
I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in February of 1943 and came to the MIT Rad Lab almost immediately. In fact, I graduated and did not stay around for the graduation ceremony. I got married and took my new bride across country on a train and ended up in Boston. We stayed at the Gardiner Hotel and I walked across the Charles River Bridge to MIT and saw Dr. [Alfred] [http://www.ob-ultrasound.net/loomis.html Loomis], who interviewed me. One of the questions he asked was, what sort of experience have you had? I did some work on high-speed oscilloscopes while I was at Cal-Berkeley. I also worked for three years at the Los Angeles Power &amp; Light in their test labs. I told him. He said, "We don't have many people who are in the test area, and we'd like to have you join our test equipment group." That was Group 55. Frank Gaffney, who was heading up that group, said they were looking for people. It was a fairly new group actually. I joined Group 55. It turned out that designing test equipment was the rest of my 50-year career.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 49: Line 47:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
I was recruited by Dr. Lawrence Marshall. He was from the Rad Lab at the time, and he went around the country to top colleges looking for the top students to come to work for MIT Rad Lab. He couldn't tell us very much about the Lab, except that I would have to be cleared by security, it's a government laboratory run by MIT, and that after the security clearance I would be able to go to work. I was in my junior year at UC Berkeley.  
+
I was recruited by Dr. Laurence Marshall. He was from the Rad Lab at the time, and he went around the country to top colleges looking for the top students to come to work for MIT Rad Lab. He couldn't tell us very much about the Lab, except that I would have to be cleared by security, it's a government laboratory run by MIT, and that after the security clearance I would be able to go to work. I was in my junior year at UC Berkeley.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 57: Line 55:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
Yes, he arrived in '42. Just about a month later Dr. Fred Terman came by also.<ref>''Fred Terman at Stanford: Building a Discipline, a University, and Silicon Valley'' (2004, Stanford University Press) (Art visits him and drive him places, when in his late 70’s. Page 489.)</ref> He was the one who was head of the Harvard Radio Research Lab. He also talked to me. When he found out that Larry Marshall had already talked to me, he said, "I guess Larry Marshall has first dibs on you." Then it turned out later in life I got to know Dr. Terman much better than I did Dr. Marshall. There was a little problem. The war was on, and the draft board was after me all the time. The solution was that each time the draft notice came, I needed to send the draft notice to the NDRC office in Washington to get it reclassified into 3-F, which was a kind of miscellaneous classification. The ace in the hole was that if I had been in real trouble with the draft board (some of them can be pretty tough), they would give me a temporary commission in the Navy as an ensign, in the Navy Reserve to keep me out. But we never had to go that route. It turns out that each time I was reclassified 1-A, the 3F notice came right back.  
+
Yes, he arrived in '42. Just about a month later Dr. Fred Terman came by also.<ref>''Fred Terman at Stanford: Building a Discipline, a University, and Silicon Valley'' (2004, Stanford University Press) (Art visits him and drive him places, when in his late 70’s. Page 489.)</ref> He was the one who was head of the Harvard Radio Research Lab. He also talked to me. When he found out that Larry Marshall had already talked to me, he said, "I guess Larry Marshall has first dibs on you." Then it turned out later in life I got to know [[Frederick Terman|Dr. Terman]] much better than I did Dr. Marshall. There was a little problem. The war was on, and the draft board was after me all the time. The solution was that each time the draft notice came, I needed to send the draft notice to the NDRC office in Washington to get it reclassified into 3-F, which was a kind of miscellaneous classification. The ace in the hole was that if I had been in real trouble with the draft board (some of them can be pretty tough), they would give me a temporary commission in the Navy as an ensign, in the Navy Reserve to keep me out. But we never had to go that route. It turns out that each time I was reclassified 1-A, the 3F notice came right back.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 69: Line 67:
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
  
You mean before you could apply, you could appeal to the NDRC? [''National Defense Research Committee''. Later superseded by OSRD, ''Office of Scientific Research and Development'']  
+
You mean before you could apply, you could appeal to the [http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box2/a13f01.html NDRC]? [''National Defense Research Committee''. Later superseded by [http://archive.org/details/organizingscient00stew OSRD], ''Office of Scientific Research and Development'']  
  
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
Line 117: Line 115:
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
  
Had you heard of the term "RADAR" by 1943?  
+
Had you heard of the term "[[Radar|RADAR]]" by 1943?  
  
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
Line 187: Line 185:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
No. As a matter of fact, to learn about circuits I had to go to other people outside the group. I knew ten of the people in that area in our group. In fact, they actually came later in '41 and '43 at just about the time when they realized that some of the things were necessary, like test equipment. I remember I had to redesign the sweep circuit, which was the very fast part of a circuit. I learned that Dr. Britton Chance had quite a bit of know-how in that area, so I went down to see him. My first meeting with him was quite an experience because I was just a young engineer out of college, and here was a famous man, Dr. Chance, who was a group leader. He welcomed me into his office, which was only a bench with all the wires hanging all over. It was intimidating in a way to walk in there. There were Ph.D.s all over the Lab, and I was one of the few who are not Ph.D. I realize they were really looking for people with engineering backgrounds who could make things work, and that's the reason why they hired me. Dr. Chance was a real nice person. He put me at ease, and we spoke a little bit about it.  
+
No. As a matter of fact, to learn about circuits I had to go to other people outside the group. I knew ten of the people in that area in our group. In fact, they actually came later in '41 and '43 at just about the time when they realized that some of the things were necessary, like test equipment. I remember I had to redesign the sweep circuit, which was the very fast part of a circuit. I learned that [[Oral-History:Britton Chance|Dr. Britton Chance]] had quite a bit of know-how in that area, so I went down to see him. My first meeting with him was quite an experience because I was just a young engineer out of college, and here was a famous man, Dr. Chance, who was a group leader. He welcomed me into his office, which was only a bench with all the wires hanging all over. It was intimidating in a way to walk in there. There were Ph.D.s all over the Lab, and I was one of the few who are not Ph.D. I realize they were really looking for people with engineering backgrounds who could make things work, and that's the reason why they hired me. Dr. Chance was a real nice person. He put me at ease, and we spoke a little bit about it.  
  
 
I went back and worked on the scope. In fact, I designed the circuit which gave it a very, very linear sweep in a very short time interval. It consisted of an RLT network. There were little complications in optimizing the linearity to near 100 percent. In fact, that was my first patent. That was quite exciting for a young engineer. I gave a lot of credit to Dr. Chance for steering me along. In fact, I just saw him the other day. I talked about it with him, and he doesn't even remember it. But he appreciated my thoughts. He said so many things happened during the war that he couldn't remember all the conversations.  
 
I went back and worked on the scope. In fact, I designed the circuit which gave it a very, very linear sweep in a very short time interval. It consisted of an RLT network. There were little complications in optimizing the linearity to near 100 percent. In fact, that was my first patent. That was quite exciting for a young engineer. I gave a lot of credit to Dr. Chance for steering me along. In fact, I just saw him the other day. I talked about it with him, and he doesn't even remember it. But he appreciated my thoughts. He said so many things happened during the war that he couldn't remember all the conversations.  
Line 259: Line 257:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
No, no. There was another signal generator that came up before that. There was an earlier version, which was not militarized. That was done by Air Radio in Stamford. We then built a ruggedized version for the military, which was called TS-137, and that was built by Sperry Gyroscope. Again, they were strictly a production of what was designed. Normally the sequence was this: we would design a piece of equipment, and we would have what we called a lab prototype.  
+
No, no. There was another signal generator that came up before that. There was an earlier version, which was not militarized. That was done by Air Radio in Stamford. We then built a ruggedized version for the military, which was called TS-137, and that was built by [http://www.hagley.lib.de.us/library/collections/manuscripts/findingaids/sperrygyroco.ACC1915.htm#bioghist Sperry Gyroscope]. Again, they were strictly a production of what was designed. Normally the sequence was this: we would design a piece of equipment, and we would have what we called a lab prototype.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 267: Line 265:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
We'd manufacture a prototype, maybe five or six or seven. Sometimes make as many as ten. These were given field trials, maybe by the Army. They'd take them out and actually try them. NLR (Navy Research Lab) tested many. Then they would make suggestions for modifications and improvements. I guess they were our best sounding board as to how the stuff worked. After that was done, we called in a manufacturer. I don't know how the process was in the selection of a manufacturer, but we were told to work with such and such a company, and then we'd work with them. They'd come into the Lab, and we would go through the drawings. Then we would go down to the manufacturers themselves. Normally we go to them after they'd gone a little ways so that we could test their first ones off the production line and see how well they worked compared to the original prototype. First they'd always get a prototype so they could compare and see how things work and respond to each other.  
+
We'd manufacture a prototype, maybe five or six or seven. Sometimes make as many as ten. These were given field trials, maybe by the Army. They'd take them out and actually try them. [http://www.nrl.navy.mil/about-nrl/history/ NRL] [Naval Research Laboratory] tested many. Then they would make suggestions for modifications and improvements. I guess they were our best sounding board as to how the stuff worked. After that was done, we called in a manufacturer. I don't know how the process was in the selection of a manufacturer, but we were told to work with such and such a company, and then we'd work with them. They'd come into the Lab, and we would go through the drawings. Then we would go down to the manufacturers themselves. Normally we go to them after they'd gone a little ways so that we could test their first ones off the production line and see how well they worked compared to the original prototype. First they'd always get a prototype so they could compare and see how things work and respond to each other.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 299: Line 297:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
I would think that some of the other efforts would have more cooperation. But in the signal generator area we didn't have that kind of interaction. The components we chose were normally off-the-shelf components. For instance, the signal sources that we used were normally sources like local oscillators, and [[Klystron|klystrons]] and the so-called Pierce-Shepherd tubes. (John R. Pierce, Bell Labs, Gerry Shepherd: W.G. Shepherd later a VP at University of Minnesota.)<ref>John R. Pierce and W. G. Shepherd: http://www.smecc.org/john_r__pierce____electron_tubes.htmfckLR&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;</ref> The two of them developed the 723 klystron, which was used extensively through the war. John Pierce later became the head of Bell Labs. He's retired, and he's now at Stanford. I saw him there not too long ago. He was very active and very vigorous. I think I've seen Shepherd's name here, but I'm not sure I could remember those people.  
+
I would think that some of the other efforts would have more cooperation. But in the signal generator area we didn't have that kind of interaction. The components we chose were normally off-the-shelf components. For instance, the signal sources that we used were normally sources like local oscillators, and [[Klystron|klystrons]] and the so-called Pierce-Shepherd tubes. [John R. Pierce, [[Bell Labs|Bell Labs]]; [http://www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2003/UR_RELEASE_MIG_669.html William "Gerry" Shepherd], later a VP at University of Minnesota.]<ref>John R. Pierce and W. G. Shepherd: http://www.smecc.org/john_r__pierce____electron_tubes.htm</ref> The two of them developed the [http://tubedata.itchurch.org/sheets/046/2/2K25.pdf 723 klystron], which was used extensively through the war. [[John Pierce|John Pierce]] later became the head of [[Bell Labs|Bell Labs]]. He's retired, and he's now at Stanford. I saw him there not too long ago. He was very active and very vigorous. I think I've seen Shepherd's name here, but I'm not sure I could remember those people.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 389: Line 387:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
No. I did work for part of the year for a company called Browning Labs. Browning Labs was another vendor that built a K-band test set for Rad Lab. That project I did not participate in the beginning. Someone else did start it earlier. Part way through I took over the project and brought it into production. These were signal generators in the 25 GHz range. That was the first attempt by Rad Lab to get into the millimeter area. We were just starting to get radars in that frequency, so we didn't get into full production in that particular area. While visiting Browning, I discovered that they made amateur radios. They made a commercial tuner for FM reception. Experimental bands for FM broadcast in the range of 40 to 50 MHz were in use at the time. But during the war the commercialization of that band was stopped completely. The FCC decided to change the frequency of the FM band to 88 to 108 MHz. That's the same band that's being used now. Browning Labs saw the opportunity to do a lot of business in that area. So they asked me if I design the AM/FM tuner for them, and I said I really wanted to go back to California. During the last few months when I was writing reports and things like that at Rad Lab I was moonlighting for them. On weekends and evenings I was working on the AM/FM tuners. In fact, Browning Labs came out with the first commercial AM/FM tuner and receiver of that era.  
+
No. I did work for part of the year for a company called [http://www.browninglabsinc.com/browning_laboratories_inc.htm Browning Labs]. Browning Labs was another vendor that built a K-band test set for Rad Lab. That project I did not participate in the beginning. Someone else did start it earlier. Part way through I took over the project and brought it into production. These were signal generators in the 25 GHz range. That was the first attempt by Rad Lab to get into the millimeter area. We were just starting to get radars in that frequency, so we didn't get into full production in that particular area.  
 +
 
 +
While visiting Browning, I discovered that they made amateur radios. They made a commercial tuner for FM reception. Experimental bands for FM broadcast in the range of 40 to 50 MHz were in use at the time. But during the war the commercialization of that band was stopped completely. The FCC decided to change the frequency of the FM band to 88 to 108 MHz. That's the same band that's being used now. Browning Labs saw the opportunity to do a lot of business in that area. So they asked me if I'd design the AM/FM tuner for them, and I said I really wanted to go back to California. During the last few months when I was writing reports and things like that at Rad Lab I was moonlighting for them. On weekends and evenings I was working on the AM/FM tuners. In fact, Browning Labs came out with the first commercial AM/FM tuner and receiver of that era.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 414: Line 414:
  
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
 +
 +
<flashmp3>092 - fong - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3>
  
 
Security, yes, until after the war ended. But I don't think anyone ever worried much about patents. In those days there were a lot of instances where people were using other people's patents, and no one really thought of suing the other person for using it. It was the same as a friendly handshake. Okay, fine. If you want to use this, it's okay. Let's have a little royalty or an exchange of patents. There wasn't really that adversarial environment. Nowadays, look at the software business. They're suing each other just because it's something that looks like theirs. But I think things were a lot freer in those days, and nobody really cared too much if the patent was being used. It's just that you feel I'm going to have something better coming out pretty soon anyway, and so go ahead and use it. I think things were a lot friendlier.  
 
Security, yes, until after the war ended. But I don't think anyone ever worried much about patents. In those days there were a lot of instances where people were using other people's patents, and no one really thought of suing the other person for using it. It was the same as a friendly handshake. Okay, fine. If you want to use this, it's okay. Let's have a little royalty or an exchange of patents. There wasn't really that adversarial environment. Nowadays, look at the software business. They're suing each other just because it's something that looks like theirs. But I think things were a lot freer in those days, and nobody really cared too much if the patent was being used. It's just that you feel I'm going to have something better coming out pretty soon anyway, and so go ahead and use it. I think things were a lot friendlier.  
Line 433: Line 435:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
The only involvement was that I became acquainted with Hewlett Packard's representative. He was selling Hewlett Packard oscillators at the time. (Rube Ryerson)
+
The only involvement was that I became acquainted with Hewlett Packard's representative. He was selling Hewlett Packard oscillators at the time [Rube Ryerson].
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 441: Line 443:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
To Rad Lab. We purchased one of the audio oscillators. So I didn't know about that. But I didn't get my job through him. But there was a Dr. Wyatt from Aircraft Radio in New Jersey. I forget what exactly we did with him, but they manufactured some items that we had developed in Group 55. When the Rad Lab was closing up, he offered me a job in New Jersey. New Jersey wasn't one place I really wanted to be. [Chuckling] So I said, "I'd really like to go back to California. If I can't find a job out there, I'll go back to school." When I moved back there I did go to Stanford and got an M.S. degree, while working at HP. But he said, "Well, if I can't convince you, I know of a friend in California who would be very interested in you." The friend he knew was Bill Hewlett. Hewlett was an MIT graduate. He'd gone to Stanford but did graduate work at MIT. And Hewlett was in the Army Signal Corps. So he came up and visited me, and I invited him to dinner at my apartment. We talked shop all night. When the evening was over, he offered me a job. I was just so happy to go back there that I didn't even ask what my salary might be. I just thought it was a young company; HP was a great opportunity, so I joined them.  
+
To Rad Lab. We purchased one of the audio oscillators. So I didn't know about that. But I didn't get my job through him. But there was a Dr. Wyatt from Aircraft Radio in New Jersey. I forget what exactly we did with him, but they manufactured some items that we had developed in Group 55. When the Rad Lab was closing up, he offered me a job in New Jersey. New Jersey wasn't one place I really wanted to be. [Chuckling] So I said, "I'd really like to go back to California. If I can't find a job out there, I'll go back to school." When I moved back there I did go to Stanford and got an M.S. degree, while working at HP.  
 +
 
 +
But he said, "Well, if I can't convince you, I know of a friend in California who would be very interested in you." The friend he knew was [[William R. Hewlett|Bill Hewlett]]. Hewlett was an MIT graduate. He'd gone to Stanford but did graduate work at MIT. And Hewlett was in the Army Signal Corps. So he came up and visited me, and I invited him to dinner at my apartment. We talked shop all night. When the evening was over, he offered me a job. I was just so happy to go back there that I didn't even ask what my salary might be. I just thought it was a young company; HP was a great opportunity, so I joined them.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
Line 457: Line 461:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
They had thought about going into the signal generator business. They had already done that in the audio-video area. They wanted to go into the high frequency and up to microwave area. So they hired me, and they also hired another fellow from Harvard, from the Radio Research Lab whose name was Bruce Wholey. He's a Canadian engineer who went to school at Stanford and was recruited by Fred Terman to RRL. After WWII, Terman became Dean of Engineering at Stanford. I did not know Bruce until I went to Hewlett Packard. He arrived there just before me, and so the two of us were the microwave persons at Hewlett Packard's microwave division.  
+
They had thought about going into the signal generator business. They had already done that in the audio-video area. They wanted to go into the high frequency and up to microwave area. So they hired me, and they also hired another fellow from Harvard, from the [http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hua09005 Radio Research Lab] whose name was [http://www.scribd.com/doc/65390438/23/Bruce-Wholey Bruce Wholey]. He's a Canadian engineer who went to school at Stanford and was recruited by Fred Terman to RRL. After WWII, Terman became Dean of Engineering at Stanford. I did not know Bruce until I went to Hewlett Packard. He arrived there just before me, and so the two of us were the microwave persons at Hewlett Packard's microwave division.  
  
 
=== Manufacturing Process at Rad Lab  ===
 
=== Manufacturing Process at Rad Lab  ===
Line 483: Line 487:
 
'''Fong:'''  
 
'''Fong:'''  
  
Well, yes. They would tell us that it had to stand a water test. Parts had to be protected. All the transformers had to be covered so that moisture doesn't ruin it. They'd tell us that the equipment must work at let's say, at 15,000 feet altitude. Of course, we would conclude it was going to be flown. We would infer that. But they wouldn't come out directly and tell us those things were going to be flown in a bomber.  
+
Well, yes. They would tell us that it had to stand a water test. Parts had to be protected. All the [[Transformers|transformers]] had to be covered so that moisture doesn't ruin it. They'd tell us that the equipment must work at let's say, at 15,000 feet altitude. Of course, we would conclude it was going to be flown. We would infer that. But they wouldn't come out directly and tell us those things were going to be flown in a bomber.  
  
 
=== Seminars and Radar School  ===
 
=== Seminars and Radar School  ===
Line 621: Line 625:
 
<references />  
 
<references />  
  
[[Category:People_and_organizations]] [[Category:Engineers]] [[Category:Inventors]] [[Category:Research_and_development_labs]] [[Category:Culture_and_society]] [[Category:Defense_&_security|Category:Defense_&amp;_security]] [[Category:Signals]] [[Category:Signal_detection]] [[Category:Radar_detection]] [[Category:Environment,_geoscience_&_remote_sensing|Category:Environment,_geoscience_&amp;_remote_sensing]] [[Category:Radar]] [[Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&_systems|Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&amp;_systems]] [[Category:Measurement]] [[Category:Electromagnetic_measurements]] [[Category:Oscillators]] [[Category:Electron_devices]] [[Category:Electron_tubes]]
+
=== Further reading<br>  ===
 +
 
 +
[http://www.hp.com/retiree/pdf/Artfong.pdf "Art Fong Dies at Age 92:&nbsp;'Mr. Microwave was a True Original,"] HP Retiree Home, accessed 12 September 2012.<br>
 +
 
 +
Fong, Art. [http://hpmemory.org/timeline/art_fong/life_and_times_02.htm "My Life and Times,"] HP Memory Project, accessed 21 December 2012.
 +
 
 +
[http://historycenter.agilent.com/exhibit3 "Remembering Art Fong: Agilent looks back at 'Mr. Microwave,'" ]Agilent Technologies Historical Archives, accessed 12 September 2012.<br>
 +
 
 +
[[Category:News|Fong]] [[Category:People_and_organizations|Fong]] [[Category:Engineers|Fong]] [[Category:Inventors|Fong]] [[Category:Research_and_development_labs|Fong]] [[Category:Culture_and_society|Fong]] [[Category:Defense_&_security|Fong]] [[Category:Signals|Fong]] [[Category:Signal_detection|Fong]] [[Category:Radar_detection|Fong]] [[Category:Environment,_geoscience_&_remote_sensing|Fong]] [[Category:Radar|Fong]] [[Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&_systems|Fong]] [[Category:Measurement|Fong]] [[Category:Electromagnetic_measurements|Fong]] [[Category:Oscillators|Fong]] [[Category:Electron_devices|Fong]] [[Category:Electron_tubes|Fong]]

Revision as of 18:56, 21 December 2012

Contents

About Art Fong

Fong received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1943 and went straight to work at the Rad Lab. He worked in the test equipment group under Frank Gaffney. He worked on a high-speed oscilloscope, called a “synchroscope;” signal generators; thermistor mounts; attenuators; and significantly improved spectrum analyzers. Fong notes more secrecy than most interviewees, though he still got plenty of advice from Britton Chance, among others. He records very little manufacturer input in making working equipment: Rad Lab sent designs, the companies basically copied. After the war he went to work for Hewlett-Packard designing test equipment, particularly for microwaves. He retired from Hewlett-Packard in 1996 after 32 years as a Senior Staff Engineer, the company's highest technical position. Fong died 17 May 2012, aged 92.

In his interview, Fong describes the project engineers used to adapt existing components and resources to new equipment. The engineers were responsible for developing the testing equipment after the new technology was introduced. He served in group 55 under Frank Gaffney, and in group 55.2. After Rad Lab, Fong worked briefly at Browning Labs. Later he moved to Palo Alto, California after he was invited to join Hewlett Packard.

About the Interview

Art Fong: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, 13 June 1991

Interview # 092 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Art Fong, an oral history conducted in 1991 by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center,  New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Art Fong

Interviewer: Andrew Goldstein

Date: 13 June 1991

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Recruitment to Rad Lab

Goldstein:

This is Andy Goldstein interviewing Art Fong on June 13, 1991 at the Haines Convention Center. Mr. Fong, let me thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I'd like to start by asking you to describe your educational background and work history before coming to the Rad Lab.

Fong:

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in February of 1943 and came to the MIT Rad Lab almost immediately. In fact, I graduated and did not stay around for the graduation ceremony. I got married and took my new bride across country on a train and ended up in Boston. We stayed at the Gardiner Hotel and I walked across the Charles River Bridge to MIT and saw Dr. [Alfred] Loomis, who interviewed me. One of the questions he asked was, what sort of experience have you had? I did some work on high-speed oscilloscopes while I was at Cal-Berkeley. I also worked for three years at the Los Angeles Power & Light in their test labs. I told him. He said, "We don't have many people who are in the test area, and we'd like to have you join our test equipment group." That was Group 55. Frank Gaffney, who was heading up that group, said they were looking for people. It was a fairly new group actually. I joined Group 55. It turned out that designing test equipment was the rest of my 50-year career.

Goldstein:

What brought you out to Boston to the Rad Lab?

Fong:

I was recruited by Dr. Laurence Marshall. He was from the Rad Lab at the time, and he went around the country to top colleges looking for the top students to come to work for MIT Rad Lab. He couldn't tell us very much about the Lab, except that I would have to be cleared by security, it's a government laboratory run by MIT, and that after the security clearance I would be able to go to work. I was in my junior year at UC Berkeley.

Goldstein:

He arrived in '42?

Fong:

Yes, he arrived in '42. Just about a month later Dr. Fred Terman came by also.[1] He was the one who was head of the Harvard Radio Research Lab. He also talked to me. When he found out that Larry Marshall had already talked to me, he said, "I guess Larry Marshall has first dibs on you." Then it turned out later in life I got to know Dr. Terman much better than I did Dr. Marshall. There was a little problem. The war was on, and the draft board was after me all the time. The solution was that each time the draft notice came, I needed to send the draft notice to the NDRC office in Washington to get it reclassified into 3-F, which was a kind of miscellaneous classification. The ace in the hole was that if I had been in real trouble with the draft board (some of them can be pretty tough), they would give me a temporary commission in the Navy as an ensign, in the Navy Reserve to keep me out. But we never had to go that route. It turns out that each time I was reclassified 1-A, the 3F notice came right back.

Goldstein:

That was going on while you were at Rad Lab?

Fong:

This went on while I was at Rad Lab also.

Goldstein:

You mean before you could apply, you could appeal to the NDRC? [National Defense Research Committee. Later superseded by OSRD, Office of Scientific Research and Development]

Fong:

Yes.

Goldstein:

While you were in school?

Fong:

While I was in school, I would send my draft notices to the NDRC, and they would take care of it. In fact, one time while I was at Rad Lab, I'd gotten the notice in and somehow or other it was delayed and I did have to report for induction and take the physical at the US Armory down on Commonwealth Avenue. But before they could do anything else, the deferment papers came through, and I was all set again. That in itself is another story, but I don't think I want to go into the grim details of that Army Induction Center. [Chuckling]

Goldstein:

Do you know how many students Larry Marshall spoke to?

Fong:

I don't know.

Goldstein:

Or how receptive the students were to his offer?

Fong:

I think he interviewed three students at UC-Berkeley, and I was the only one who accepted. One fellow was in ROTC, and he had a commission in the Army. He was Stan M. Kerber.[2] He served in the military during the war. The other was Don R. Scheuch, and I don’t recall what he did, but I think he ended up doing some work in the defense area, and he was also deferred. I was the only one in my class that came to MIT.

Goldstein:

Are you talking about engineering students, or does this also include people in physics?

Fong:

These are only engineering people that I know. Physics, I'm not sure. I'm not sure there were any physics students that were interviewed. You asked me how the students felt about it. In those days of course it was an entirely different environment. We had been attacked by Japan, and the U.S. was very close to France and England, which were being attacked by the Germans. I think most citizens supported the war effort, because of the Japanese vicious attack on Pearl Harbor. There was no question about it. There were very few protests if any at all. In fact, you don't even hear about it at all. The mood was completely different.

Goldstein:

Right. I'm not necessarily asking about service in the interest of the military, but as a career choice going to Rad Lab.

Fong:

Oh, I see. Well, I personally thought it was very exciting work, because I did learn that we'd be working with very high frequencies. In those days, the curriculum at UC-Berkeley did not include very high frequency work; this was true of most colleges. They didn't mention microwaves. Even the word "microwave" was a hush-hush word in those days. That wasn't being taught at most universities.

Goldstein:

Had you heard of the term "RADAR" by 1943?

Fong:

I guess it had been mentioned in the newspapers, there was some reference to it, but that's was about all. No one ever gave a description as to what kind of things that it would be used for.

Goldstein:

So you came to Rad Lab in the fall of 1943?

Fong:

No. In March of 1943.

Group 55 and Q-Scope

Goldstein:

Oh, right, you said it was before your graduation. And you were set up in Group 55?

Fong:

Yes.

Goldstein:

Working under Gaffney?

Fong:

Frank Gaffney.

Goldstein:

What were your responsibilities? What were you working on?

Fong:

The very first thing they had me work on was a high-speed oscilloscope. They called it a synchroscope in those days. It was for testing of radar. There were no commercial oscilloscopes. People were working on the radar pulse at the time. Of course the pulses they were using in those days were half of a microsecond to a microsecond long. They were not very short by today's standards. But the techniques were such that test equipment wasn't very available. There was an oscilloscope that was already partially designed, meaning it did not work as intended. Being low men on the totem pole, I was told to fix something, and I did. [Chuckling]

Goldstein:

You would work on subsections, on specialty circuits in this scope?

Fong:

No, as a matter of fact, I took over the whole project.

Goldstein:

Really!

Fong:

It was sort of a one-man project plus a technician. I forget the nomenclature of that one now, but I do remember where they used the name Q-scope; Q not meaning anything. It was a code word for that oscilloscope. It was capable of looking at modulated pulses, looking at a detected radar pulse to see what the pulse looked like.

Goldstein:

Had work on the Q-scope begun before you got there, or did they just hand you that project?

Fong:

It was already started when I got there. I was never told who the person was that worked on it. In those days, of course, they didn't tell you very much. Everything was very hush-hush, and that information was never told to me.

Goldstein:

That's interesting. Things were quiet. Were you given any direction or guidance?

Fong:

No. As a matter of fact, to learn about circuits I had to go to other people outside the group. I knew ten of the people in that area in our group. In fact, they actually came later in '41 and '43 at just about the time when they realized that some of the things were necessary, like test equipment. I remember I had to redesign the sweep circuit, which was the very fast part of a circuit. I learned that Dr. Britton Chance had quite a bit of know-how in that area, so I went down to see him. My first meeting with him was quite an experience because I was just a young engineer out of college, and here was a famous man, Dr. Chance, who was a group leader. He welcomed me into his office, which was only a bench with all the wires hanging all over. It was intimidating in a way to walk in there. There were Ph.D.s all over the Lab, and I was one of the few who are not Ph.D. I realize they were really looking for people with engineering backgrounds who could make things work, and that's the reason why they hired me. Dr. Chance was a real nice person. He put me at ease, and we spoke a little bit about it.

I went back and worked on the scope. In fact, I designed the circuit which gave it a very, very linear sweep in a very short time interval. It consisted of an RLT network. There were little complications in optimizing the linearity to near 100 percent. In fact, that was my first patent. That was quite exciting for a young engineer. I gave a lot of credit to Dr. Chance for steering me along. In fact, I just saw him the other day. I talked about it with him, and he doesn't even remember it. But he appreciated my thoughts. He said so many things happened during the war that he couldn't remember all the conversations.

Communication and Secrecy

Goldstein:

When you say you spoke to Dr. Chance informally, you went down there, were there more formal methods for communicating results and seeking conversation?

Fong:

No. In fact, it was very informal. You could walk into anybody's office and start talking with him. There was no such thing as making an appointment with somebody. No one ever thought about that. It seems that most everybody was at work all the time, except when they were traveling. Most people were willing to stop for a moment and chat with you. So it made for a very informal atmosphere.

Goldstein:

Did you attend seminars where people would report on what work was going on?

Fong:

There was very little of that going on between groups. We did have our own group reviews, which had to do with the projects and they did talk about projects with the rest of the group. For instance, I would talk about the Q-oscilloscope. We were talking to Freddie Jones, who was our group recorder. One of things we avoided was transmitted frequency or speed. I guess this was for security reasons. I guess that was one of the problems that we had trying to communicate with everybody, because everything we did was classified. We never had a chance to talk to anyone. It was certainly unknown to talk to outsiders or vendors on anything that dealt with frequency or time.

Interaction with Private Industry

Goldstein:

Did you work with any industrial developers on designs parallel to yours on fast-sweep oscilloscopes?

Fong:

No.

Goldstein:

Was there any effort?

Fong:

No, in fact there was very little of that. It was practically nonexistent. Almost every piece of equipment that I designed was being built by a manufacturer outside. The manufacturers outside would use our drawings and take our specs and essentially just make copies of it. We really couldn't tell them anything about how the circuitries were developed and what it was going to be used for. So they were all in the dark.

Goldstein:

For security reasons?

Fong:

Yes, for security reasons.

Goldstein:

Who was this manufacturer?

Fong:

I don't recall the manufacturer for the Q-scope. It was somebody down in the New York area.

Some of the other things that I developed for instance a TS-146, which was a signal generator for X-band, were built by a company called Air Radio down in Stamford, Connecticut. They made many MIT Rad Lab designs for military use.

Goldstein:

When did you work on that?

Fong:

I would say early '44.

Goldstein:

Right after you just got there?

Fong:

No, no. There was another signal generator that came up before that. There was an earlier version, which was not militarized. That was done by Air Radio in Stamford. We then built a ruggedized version for the military, which was called TS-137, and that was built by Sperry Gyroscope. Again, they were strictly a production of what was designed. Normally the sequence was this: we would design a piece of equipment, and we would have what we called a lab prototype.

Goldstein:

That you manufactured yourself?

Fong:

We'd manufacture a prototype, maybe five or six or seven. Sometimes make as many as ten. These were given field trials, maybe by the Army. They'd take them out and actually try them. NRL [Naval Research Laboratory] tested many. Then they would make suggestions for modifications and improvements. I guess they were our best sounding board as to how the stuff worked. After that was done, we called in a manufacturer. I don't know how the process was in the selection of a manufacturer, but we were told to work with such and such a company, and then we'd work with them. They'd come into the Lab, and we would go through the drawings. Then we would go down to the manufacturers themselves. Normally we go to them after they'd gone a little ways so that we could test their first ones off the production line and see how well they worked compared to the original prototype. First they'd always get a prototype so they could compare and see how things work and respond to each other.

Goldstein:

So after you would complete a design, you would be told by some other official what company would be involved in the manufacture?

Fong:

That's right. You had no choice in that. These are companies that somebody has predetermined were secure and were able to do military contracts.

Goldstein:

Right. The companies then came in after the prototype was developed? They had no input into the design?

Fong:

That's right. That's essentially correct. I would say actually no input at all. We were designing them.

Goldstein:

You spoke of ruggedness. Would the original design need to be modified to make it more rugged?

Fong:

Yes. In fact as I mentioned, this one signal generator, the first version, was strictly for laboratory use. You wouldn't be able to use it out in the field. The second version was in a dunk-proof box, and it had waterproof seals around it so it could, in effect, survive a dunk if it were taken out to sea and somehow got into salt water.

Goldstein:

Do you think the interaction with the industrial manufacturers was different for other components? You say that there was no industrial effort in developing high-speed scopes. But in some other area, say, in microwave generation, where industry was conducting a parallel effort, was there was more interaction, more cooperation in terms of design?

Fong:

I would think that some of the other efforts would have more cooperation. But in the signal generator area we didn't have that kind of interaction. The components we chose were normally off-the-shelf components. For instance, the signal sources that we used were normally sources like local oscillators, and klystrons and the so-called Pierce-Shepherd tubes. [John R. Pierce, Bell Labs; William "Gerry" Shepherd, later a VP at University of Minnesota.][3] The two of them developed the 723 klystron, which was used extensively through the war. John Pierce later became the head of Bell Labs. He's retired, and he's now at Stanford. I saw him there not too long ago. He was very active and very vigorous. I think I've seen Shepherd's name here, but I'm not sure I could remember those people.

Goldstein:

You say that normally you'd use off-the-shelf components. Were there any instances where a particular tube or element didn't exist and you would have to either design it yourself or request that it be designed?

Fong:

None in our case because the equipment that we had to supply was normally something that we needed right away. Like the radar itself. As we were getting close to the time when it became operational, somebody would decide that it'd have to have an oscilloscope or it would had to have a signal generator to test the things, and we would be scurrying around trying to build something to test it.

Let me take one thing back. I did have to design a thermistor mount for a power meter. At the time when I arrived at Rad Lab, they did have X-band power meters, which had to be tuned individually for the frequency range of their operation. That frequency range is fairly narrow. It's something in the area of maybe 100 MHz to 300 MHz wide in the X-band, which is very narrow. I saw the need for a wide-band thermistor mount that would cover, let's say, the 600 MHz range without the user making adjustments. So I took time out to develop that. In fact, that thermistor mount is featured in the Rad Lab series book, and the drawings in it were my original hand drawings. I'm a little disappointed they did not even mention in that book that I developed this particular thermistor mount. But I guess this happens a lot. Contributions just never get reported on individual items.[4] After Rad Lab, while at HP, I did help design a similar thermistor mount, which covered the entire X-band, 8-11 GHz.

Another instance, we needed a signal generator to test the RADAR receivers. The klystrons, which are used in every X-band RADAR for the local oscillator, seem like a likely choice. However these these klystrons run over a fairly narrow range, and they offset from the radar frequencies by the IF frequency, which is 60 MHz or 30 MHz. We tried to operate those klystrons at the operational frequency of the radar. What I mean is we were trying to get a signal source that is at a radar frequency. But there really wasn't any particular klystron designed for that particular frequency. Now they're all fairly narrow band. We would go through a series of klystrons to find ones that might work at that particular offset frequency.

Goldstein:

These were from different manufacturers?

Fong:

No. Just because of the manufacturing tolerances. Many times we had to test many klystrons to find a few that would operate at the RADAR frequency. (Can I write on the back of this?) Essentially this is the frequency of that spectrum here, and the radar frequencies at this point, but the local oscillator frequency is offset here by, say, 60 MHz. So these klystrons are designed for that offset frequency. This is power here versus frequency here. So oftentimes you're not able to tune the local oscillator source to the radar frequency. So we will select ones that would give a decent amount of power at the radar frequency. Sometimes we would mechanically alter these things to make them work at the radar frequency.

Goldstein:

Was that a reliable technique?

Fong:

[Chuckling] Well, it wasn't the most reliable, no. I certainly wouldn't do anything like that nowadays. It's something that many manufacturers recognized, like Hewlett Packard, for instance. You don't use the component outside of their specified parameters.

Goldstein:

Could you include something like that in the design that you submitted to the industrial manufacturer, could you instruct them to warp the klystron in some way?

Fong:

Yes. We would have to tell them that these things weren't really designed for that, and our quantities and our time frame wouldn't allow us to have someone design e.g. klystrons for us that would work at that frequency. So we would take the existing components which we had and try to make them work. In those days, we just had to do the best we could with what we had. For the war effort, we just didn't have that kind of time. We're talking about getting something out in the field inside of six months.

Goldstein:

Was that a typical turnover time?

Fong:

That would be a very typical turnover time in trying to get something out. It was very, very quick.

Interaction with Other Groups

Goldstein:

Did you receive all your assignments from Gaffney? Or did you get them from some other source? Were you in communication with any other development group, and would they tell you directly what equipment was necessary?

Fong:

What generally happened is the other groups would come to Gaffney and request certain things. Then Gaffney would call us in and we'd sit down in a meeting with this particular group. Then we would decide what kind of a thing we needed. For instance, this particular X-band radar, the people wanted to be able to test the transmitter and the receiver with just one box. So we developed this box . This would be the panel connector here and the RF connector. And we would check out a waveguide in this particular case. In one case it went out to a signal source with attenuator and some means of measuring the power. This power measuring device (in those days the thermistor mount was mounted in a waveguide) is the means of measuring power. So we would switch this from the power source over to the power meter, so that in the transmit mode the power meter would be measuring the transmitter power. In the receive mode we would have the switch turned over to the signal source. This is calibrated so that you will know the sensitivity of the receiver. These are two different levels here. This may be down to -120 DBM, and this may be 0 DBM. There's a big difference in power. Normally, we would come out of this by means of a directional coupler, which gives a lot of attenuation. Of course we had the problem, too, at times, of somebody pushing the transmit button, and it would burn out the components the signal generators.

Influence on Private Industry

Goldstein:

Was there much call for large-scale manufacture of these devices? If these were to test prototype radar systems, were they required only within the Rad Lab, or were they field test equipment also?

Fong:

This was field test. The first production run of the TS-147 was something like 500, and there were a thousand of those made after the war. In fact, that one was made continuously after the war. There must be 10,000 of those out in the field. After going to Hewlett Packard, there were still calls for this type of a signal generator, but one with much more precision. At Hewlett Packard I designed a second-generation one, which did the same job with greater precision and a wider frequency range. (HP 624a which test from 7 to 11GHz.)

Goldstein:

Are there other examples of that? Did any of the industries that you brought designs to for this test equipment that they hadn't been working on developing go into the business of test equipment?

Fong:

Yes. Sperry Gyroscope did go into the microwave business, and they manufactured waveguide components, signal generators, spectrum analyzers. Unfortunately, Sperry did not invest to stay in the business for a long time. HP on the West Coast didn't participate in any of these contracts. Most of the microwave contracts were with Sperry. HP at the time did really low frequency oscillator type of equipment. So their expertise was at lower frequencies. That was why Bill Hewlett, who spent time in the US Army Signal Corps, recognized the opportunities in the microwave area. He came to MIT and asked me to join HP and do microwave design for them. That's how HP got launched into the microwave business. Later, HP had the most complete line in the microwave test equipment. Later HP had spun off the test equipment to AGILENT TECHNOLOGY.

Goldstein:

When did that happen?

Fong:

Hewlett come to me in Boston and invited me to join HP in August 1946. I arrived at Hewlett Packard in December 1, 1946.

Postwar Career

Goldstein:

So you stayed on at Rad Lab through 1946?

Fong:

No. I did work for part of the year for a company called Browning Labs. Browning Labs was another vendor that built a K-band test set for Rad Lab. That project I did not participate in the beginning. Someone else did start it earlier. Part way through I took over the project and brought it into production. These were signal generators in the 25 GHz range. That was the first attempt by Rad Lab to get into the millimeter area. We were just starting to get radars in that frequency, so we didn't get into full production in that particular area.

While visiting Browning, I discovered that they made amateur radios. They made a commercial tuner for FM reception. Experimental bands for FM broadcast in the range of 40 to 50 MHz were in use at the time. But during the war the commercialization of that band was stopped completely. The FCC decided to change the frequency of the FM band to 88 to 108 MHz. That's the same band that's being used now. Browning Labs saw the opportunity to do a lot of business in that area. So they asked me if I'd design the AM/FM tuner for them, and I said I really wanted to go back to California. During the last few months when I was writing reports and things like that at Rad Lab I was moonlighting for them. On weekends and evenings I was working on the AM/FM tuners. In fact, Browning Labs came out with the first commercial AM/FM tuner and receiver of that era.

Goldstein:

For that new frequency range?

Fong:

For 88 to 108 megahertz frequency range.

Goldstein:

You came to their attention through you Rad Lab work with them?

Fong:

That's right, yes.

Patents

Goldstein:

You said before that you got your first patent working in the Rad Lab. It sounds like you're characterizing the flow of information from Rad Lab out to industry in this particular technology. Were there any legal considerations with regard to technology that was developed at Rad Lab that was manufactured after the war by different companies with regard to patents or security?

Fong:

Security, yes, until after the war ended. But I don't think anyone ever worried much about patents. In those days there were a lot of instances where people were using other people's patents, and no one really thought of suing the other person for using it. It was the same as a friendly handshake. Okay, fine. If you want to use this, it's okay. Let's have a little royalty or an exchange of patents. There wasn't really that adversarial environment. Nowadays, look at the software business. They're suing each other just because it's something that looks like theirs. But I think things were a lot freer in those days, and nobody really cared too much if the patent was being used. It's just that you feel I'm going to have something better coming out pretty soon anyway, and so go ahead and use it. I think things were a lot friendlier.

Goldstein:

You were free to bring technology out to the companies?

Fong:

After the war we were developing these technologies, but during the war there were some things which we couldn't really talk about. For instance, the high linearity circuit that I was talking about, that's really not classified information anyway. It's a technique for RLC circuitry. It's patentable, but the patent wasn't really issued until after I left the Lab. As a matter of fact, we didn't want to let anybody know about the applications during that time. How to do that is a little different story. It involves how one gets this super linearity.

Recruitment to Hewlett-Packard

Goldstein:

You say that Hewlett Packard came and recruited you. Had you become involved with Hewlett Packard through your Rad Lab work?

Fong:

The only involvement was that I became acquainted with Hewlett Packard's representative. He was selling Hewlett Packard oscillators at the time [Rube Ryerson].

Goldstein:

They were selling them to whom?

Fong:

To Rad Lab. We purchased one of the audio oscillators. So I didn't know about that. But I didn't get my job through him. But there was a Dr. Wyatt from Aircraft Radio in New Jersey. I forget what exactly we did with him, but they manufactured some items that we had developed in Group 55. When the Rad Lab was closing up, he offered me a job in New Jersey. New Jersey wasn't one place I really wanted to be. [Chuckling] So I said, "I'd really like to go back to California. If I can't find a job out there, I'll go back to school." When I moved back there I did go to Stanford and got an M.S. degree, while working at HP.

But he said, "Well, if I can't convince you, I know of a friend in California who would be very interested in you." The friend he knew was Bill Hewlett. Hewlett was an MIT graduate. He'd gone to Stanford but did graduate work at MIT. And Hewlett was in the Army Signal Corps. So he came up and visited me, and I invited him to dinner at my apartment. We talked shop all night. When the evening was over, he offered me a job. I was just so happy to go back there that I didn't even ask what my salary might be. I just thought it was a young company; HP was a great opportunity, so I joined them.

Goldstein:

They were planning to go into microwaves?

Fong:

Microwaves.

Goldstein:

With what market in mind? Who did they think they'd sell these things to?

Fong:

They had thought about going into the signal generator business. They had already done that in the audio-video area. They wanted to go into the high frequency and up to microwave area. So they hired me, and they also hired another fellow from Harvard, from the Radio Research Lab whose name was Bruce Wholey. He's a Canadian engineer who went to school at Stanford and was recruited by Fred Terman to RRL. After WWII, Terman became Dean of Engineering at Stanford. I did not know Bruce until I went to Hewlett Packard. He arrived there just before me, and so the two of us were the microwave persons at Hewlett Packard's microwave division.

Manufacturing Process at Rad Lab

Goldstein:

When you were working at the Rad Lab, did you have much input into manufacturing? When you would hand a prototype over to a manufacturer, how much interaction was there at that point? Did you need to go into much detail about the design? Or did you just hand it off to them and they would work with it?

Fong:

We would have to work directly with them. It turns out that there was a real shortage of engineers in industry at that time. Most of the people went off to war, and the few people left were older persons. Although in those days if you were over 30, they really didn't want you in the Army. Most of those people had been educated many years ago, and their technology was really not up-to-date. So we had to lead them along, and we were telling them as much as we could without divulging what its usage was. We'd have to tell them what frequencies they had to work at. We had to tell them about the pulse width. But you couldn't tell them really what applications this equipment was being used for. We worked directly with the manufacturers; there were no production engineering as now. We did our best to fill the gaps. The projects that I had inherited were not engineered properly for manufacturing. That is where I had to redesign to the best I know. I did learn a lot.

Goldstein:

It sounded like you yourself weren't all that well acquainted with what the applications of the equipment.

Fong:

No. We knew it was going to be radar that was at certain frequencies, and it had certain capabilities. It was necessary for us to develop this thing. But they wouldn't tell us where it was going to be used, on a ship or in an airplane, or off the coast of Maryland, or off the coast of Alaska. We didn't even know that.

Goldstein:

In terms of constructing it so it was durable, wouldn't you need to know if it were to be used on sea or on land or in the air?

Fong:

Well, yes. They would tell us that it had to stand a water test. Parts had to be protected. All the transformers had to be covered so that moisture doesn't ruin it. They'd tell us that the equipment must work at let's say, at 15,000 feet altitude. Of course, we would conclude it was going to be flown. We would infer that. But they wouldn't come out directly and tell us those things were going to be flown in a bomber.

Seminars and Radar School

Goldstein:

I understand there were Monday night seminars.

Fong:

Oh, yes. I forget whether they were Monday night, but there were regular seminars. They were fairly selected topics, which were useful to the staff members in general. There were certain specific areas. For instance, if a new magnetron came along, then they would talk about it. Everything was pretty confidential.

Goldstein:

Was it of interest to you to keep up on what other groups were doing?

Fong:

Oh, yes. It was very interesting. I remember one seminar. There was this guy behind me. My coat hung on the back of my chair like this, and he was smoking a smelly cigar. Every once in a while the ashes would drop off on the top of my coat. I was a little annoyed at the time. I turned around and gave him a couple of looks, but it didn't seem to bother him at all. I found out later that he was Dr. Rabi. [Laughter] Someone mentioned his smelly cigar last night. When I found out he won the Nobel Prize, I forgave him. [Laughter]

Goldstein:

You could have written him and asked for the cost of a new coat. [Chuckling]

Fong:

Those were the things we worried about back then. One of the things that I wanted to point out was at the time when we were going to school, hardly anybody taught microwaves. MIT recognized that, and the first thing they did was send us up to a radar school that was given by the Navy, at downtown Boston in the Harvard Building. I believe it was for seven weeks.

Goldstein:

In which building?

Fong:

The Harvard Building downtown in Boston, near the Winter Subway Station.

Goldstein:

Okay.

Fong:

Classes were very intensive. They went all through pulse formula techniques. They described to us what radar was, how it can be used for detecting, resolution and pulse width, how far it can go, timing, and things like that. In fact, everyone who came to Rad Lab attended that school. I often thought these all day classes were like getting a MS degree from MIT Radiation Lab on microwave technology and I got paid for the learning.

Goldstein:

Do you know when those classes began? I guess they were in regular session when you arrived?

Fong:

Yes, when I arrived they were in regular session. I don't recall how often they started those classes. But I think within a week of my arrival, I spent most of my time going downtown to learn about radar techniques.

Goldstein:

Everyone appreciated the class? It was necessary for everyone?

Fong:

Yes, they learned.

Goldstein:

Even the doctors?

Fong:

Oh, yes. You realize a lot of the people who were there were physicists. They didn't really appreciate some of the engineering aspects of radar.

Goldstein:

Did you work with any physicists?

Fong:

Yes. In fact, a fellow who sat next to me was a physicist, a very fast learner. His name was John Severinghaus, and he majored in physics. But he was a very practical person to begin with. Not the very, very highly theoretical person like some of them. But immediately after the war was over he contacted the University of Wisconsin and got an M.D. degree. He ended up at the UC San Francisco med center. He's doing research in bioelectronics. I'm sure that his work with electronics at MIT steered him into the field of bioelectronics. He's one of the few experts in that area. I just found out, too, that Dr. Chance knows him very well. I'm sure they knew each other here at Rad Lab. They're doing the same type of work right now, studying the human brain, trying to study how the human brain lives and why it dies so rapidly when it loses oxygen. It doesn't take very long. 20 minutes after it's deprived of oxygen, it's gone. So they're trying to study the effect so they can come up with something to protect the human brain.

Most Important Work at Rad Lab

Goldstein:

What do you consider your most important work at the Rad Lab?

Fong:

I think it's a conglomeration of things, actually. I think the signal generators, the thermistor mounts, the attenuators I worked on, and the improvements I made on the spectrum analyzers. The spectrum analyzers were a very crude affair, and I improved them. I also used the spectrum analyzer as a network analyzer when these later became reflectometer at Hewlett Packard. In fact, I built the first spectrum analyzer for Hewlett Packard, and it was quite successful. It was so successful HP has a whole division that specializes in spectrum analyzers. Now, of course, there are solid-state sources, microprocessor control, and all the things such as interaction between the spectrum and the wave you can scan are all being controlled by a microprocessor, which automatically controls the unit. Before the waveband versions you didn't get the sweeps at the right resolution; you may not get anything on the analyzer at all. But they would be streaking about so fast that you're not getting enough energy through it. So it's been a real contribution. I would say it's a hundred-fold improvement over what we had at Rad Lab.

Goldstein:

Something else developed later that found broad industrial operations was the signal generator?

Fong:

Oh, yes. The signal generators. We have signal generators now which cover more than an octave range. The limiting factor was signal sources. It could cover maybe 300 MHz range because the klystron's only capable of covering that little bit. But for the applications that you're using it for, that was all that was necessary. Only those fairly narrow bands were assigned, the X-band radar, or K-band radars, or S-band radars. The FCC has petitioned the whole frequency spectrum to 40 GHz for various reasons. For anybody who designs anything, they need a signal source, and that's where it's necessary for broad-band signal sources.

Goldstein:

You say when you arrived at Rad Lab, you were working alone but with a technician?

Fong:

Yes.

Goldstein:

Did your position change while you were there?

Fong:

Not while I was there. I was certainly a designer and not an administrative type at all. I was lucky to be able to stay with that, I think. The worse thing that can happen is to force somebody who's a technical person to become a manager. But I became a manager of sorts while I was at Hewlett Packard. The work involved managing the engineering and not much about people. All divisions had somebody to do the administrative work.

Goldstein:

How did your Rad Lab experience affect your career afterwards?

Fong:

It had a great impact. I don't think I could have been any luckier. I was just in the right place at the right time, and the right people sought after me. I think the other thing, too, is that I decided to stay in the technical area. In fact, I went back to school to get my master's degree in the mid-1960.[5] I considered continuing to get my Ph.D. degree, but everyone told me that I was crazy. I might do it now that I'm retired. [Chuckling] In the 1960s, when transistors first came about, I decided to go back and learn about digital technology and semiconductors. I signed up at Stanford, and I was the oldest guy on the campus. I got my MSEE/CS degree when I was 48 years old.

Goldstein:

You were with Hewlett Packard then?

Fong:

Yes. Hewlett Packard. I attended Stanford part time. Twenty-five years after my BS is a long time ago, and some things I tend to forget until something jogs my memory. I remember, too, when I was a young engineer out of college to join MIT Rad Lab, and amongst all the brains that were here (although I was selected as the top student in my class). But you can imagine what it was like being here with the best people in engineering and science in the USA and the world. That's really quite an environment. It felt a little intimidating when I first got to Rad Lab.

Goldstein:

I can imagine.

Fong:

I think one of the things I found was not to be afraid of asking a question. It may be a dumb question, but most people will be very willing to sit down and explain it to you.

Notes

  1. Fred Terman at Stanford: Building a Discipline, a University, and Silicon Valley (2004, Stanford University Press) (Art visits him and drive him places, when in his late 70’s. Page 489.)
  2. Class of 1943, BSEE @ UCB: Don Scheuch, Stan Kerber, Jim Jondrow, Hal Anger, Fred Kamphoefner.
  3. John R. Pierce and W. G. Shepherd: http://www.smecc.org/john_r__pierce____electron_tubes.htm
  4. MIT Radiation Laboratory Series. Volume 11; Technique of Microwave Measurements (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947).
  5. By about 1964, Microwave innovations and demands had run its course and digital technology and computers were coming to being. I turned to my next life at Stanford and studied digital technology, integrated circuits, more math and material science. I received a MSEE/CS (masters in electrical engineering and computer science) from Stanford in 1968. The education and experience at MIT Rad Lab on microwave was more than any University program on MSEE/microwaves! My pursuit of the MS degree was challenging in every way. My wife, Mary, had a brain tumor, but successfully removed in 1965. Sheryl was at UC Berkeley, graduating in 1967. Wendy was at UOP, University of Pacific. Kevin and Darice were in grade schools in Palo Alto. Juggling college life amongst parenting was a big challenge. Mary’s mother was a greatest help, ever, also neighbors, friends and relatives. Next career was in HP Japan, 1970-72, I was R/D manager. I started automatic LCR meters and other digital measuring tools. The most important equipments were for in-process testing; including one which measured diffusion depth in silicon or other materials, non-destructively. Literally, my career went from analog to microwaves to digital.

Further reading

"Art Fong Dies at Age 92: 'Mr. Microwave was a True Original," HP Retiree Home, accessed 12 September 2012.

Fong, Art. "My Life and Times," HP Memory Project, accessed 21 December 2012.

"Remembering Art Fong: Agilent looks back at 'Mr. Microwave,'" Agilent Technologies Historical Archives, accessed 12 September 2012.