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Oral-History:Basil Osborne

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About Basil Osborne

Basil W. Osborne was born in Buenos Aires, in 1925; educated at Taunton School; and after some years at TRE Malvemn received the University of London B.Sc. Special Degree in physics from the University College Southampton in 1947.

He joined the Radio Division of the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, in 1947, working on the electron content of the ionosphere, setting up an out-station at Singapore in 1948, and publishing papers on subjects including the disintegration of the equatorial F region after sunset. He continued ionospheric research from 1952 to 1954 as a Lecturer in physics at the University of Malaya. In 1954 he joined Ultra Electric, and published papers on color television chrominance circuits; and was later with J. H. Owen Harries in Bermuda, working on color television projection displays.

From 1958 to 1968 with Rediffusion Research at Kingston-on-Thames, he was involved in coaxial and multi-pair cable development; the applications of waveform testing to cable television; UHF radio propagation studies; and television circuit design. From 1968 to 1970 with the Telemet Division of Geotel, Inc. Amityville, New York, he was primarily engaged on the design of demodulators. He was Head of the Operational Services Department (Home) of the Technical Services Division of Rediffusion Engineering Ltd. at Kingston-on-Thames; and is the author of numerous technical papers and a book. I

Mr. Osbome is a senior member of IEEE, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers, a Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, a Member of the Royal Television Society and a Fellow of the Society of Cable Television Engineers.

In this interview Osborne discusses his early years and advancement in IEEE. He goes in depth about his IEEE activities, including his term in 1985-1986 as Director of IEEE Region 8 and how IEEE changed over his career. Additionally, he talks about the relationship between IEEE and industry. He finishes the interview by reviewing the positive social aspects of IEEE membership and the benefits for young engineers.


About the Interview

Basil Osborne: An interview conducted by Anthony Davis with assistance from Roland Saam for the IEEE History Center, June 12, 2012.

Interview #616 for the IEEE History, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic 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:

Basil Osborne, an oral history conducted in 2012 by Anthony C. Davis, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEW: Basil Osborne
INTERVIEWER: Anthony C. Davis with assistance from Roland Saam
DATE: 2012
PLACE: IET Building, in Savoy Place, London


Davies:

Let’s make a start. I will just say that I’m Tony Davies, an IEEE member for many years, and I will be doing the interviewing.

Saam:

I’m Roland Saam. I’m helping Tony do the interviews and I’m the Editor of Region 8 News. Today is the 12th June 2012.

Osborne:

I’m Basil Osborne. I used to be Director in 1985/86. I was interested to hear you were doing this meeting and I’m not quite sure what we’re going to get out of it.

Joining IEEE

Davies:

I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Could you perhaps start off by saying how did you come to join IEEE in the first place?

Osborne:

Really, it was when I went to work in the States from 1968 for a few years and to get onto the local meetings and to take part, it was convenient to join IEEE and very easy to do. Since then, I’ve maintained my membership back in England.

Davies:

Were you before that a member of the National Society, the IEE here, that came first?

Osborne:

Yes, the IEE and IERE and the Institute of Physics and the Television Society.

Davies:

I know your background was in television. So did you start off as a physicist in your education rather than an electronics engineer?

Osborne:

Yes, I took a Physics degree at the end of the war at the University of Southampton.

Davies:

So you joined IEEE, you were in the USA, then you came back and obviously you kept your membership going. What got you involved with the IEEE as a volunteer doing things, not just receiving the journals?

Osborne:

Well, largely meeting people at first.

Davies:

Those were the Section meetings?

Osborne:

Chapter meetings particularly {=mainly}. And I met Openshaw-Taylor who was Chair of the Professional Communications Chapter and so I timed it {= joined it} as it was an interesting subject and relevant to my work. I didn’t understand what it meant and [Unintelligible] terms it has a funny meaning. But I became Chapter Chair when he retired.

Davies:

And then in due course, you became a Section Chair for the UK and Republic of Ireland Section.

Osborne:

That’s right, shortly afterwards. I met Reg Russell in the lift going up and he said ‘would I stand?’ so my name was quoted and I became a nominee in … whenever it was.

Davies:

You mentioned the finances were in a fairly disorganised state. I’m trying to remember back then, the Treasurer was someone from University College, is that right?

Osborne:

I’ve forgotten who the Treasurer was at that time.

Davies:

I know I could claim expenses and it took an awfully long time.

Osborne:

Well, you were the Deputy Secretary, I think.

Davies:

I helped with the Conference sponsorship.

Osborne:

Ah, yes. You’re the person who passed me unopened envelopes calling for returns to be made through the States.

Davies:

Well, Bob Winton was the main Secretary, wasn’t he, surely?

Osborne:

I don’t think so, not of UKRI Section.

Davies:

I thought he was.

Osborne:

No, I think he may have been for Region 8, certainly he attended some of the meetings but he wasn’t the Section Chair {= Secretary}.

Region 8 Administration

Davies:

I wasn’t Secretary, I was only assistant doing the Conference business. So that was just in the Section, you obviously had Chapter and Section experience and then at some stage, you got into the Region 8 domain. Could you tell us a little bit about how you came to be involved with Region 8?

Osborne:

As Section Chair, I was invited to Region 8 meetings for two or three years where I did nothing much. I acted as a passenger. Most of the Section Chairs were passengers really at that time because the main Region 8 business was handled by appointed members who were appointed by the Director at the time in large numbers, so many that we had to cut them down. You weren’t allowed to have more than, whatever it was, a quarter of the number of elected Section Chairs and we were over that limit. So when I did become Regional Chair, one of the first things I did at a meeting in Spain was to cut down the number of appointed reps.

Davies:

Back then, there were far less Sections, weren’t there?

Osborne:

That’s right.

Davies:

Compared with the present day, there are a huge number of Sections.

Osborne:

Yeah, but we divided the number of Sections by four, I think it was, something like that and that gave us the permitted total of appointed reps and we went over the top in that.

Davies:

Now I couldn’t imagine that, with this very large number of Section Chairs, you couldn’t ever get the number of appointed people above that, even if you wanted to.

Osborne:

No, and the other thing is, you’d probably get more Section Chairs actually doing some work because in my day, Section Chairs were passengers. It was quite a nice day out and not much work.

Davies:

I think some people would say there are still elements of that. They sit around, these people, and as long as things go smoothly, they don’t speak enough and they don’t act enough. Part of the job in Region 8 Committee probably is activating them, getting them more involved but this is another question and we’re really talking about your experiences long ago, not what the situation might or might not be now. So anyway, you ended up on the Region 8 Committee and in due course, you were obviously proposed or nominated …

Osborne:

After three or four years I was asked to stand but I preferred not to at that point, I was too young, too early. And another year or two later, the past Director was Folke Bolinder and he approached me at a Regional meeting and persuaded me to stand.

Davies:

So there was an Election obviously?

Osborne:

I wasn’t elected because Drangeid of IBM was the other candidate and he beat me at the election. After that, I stood once more and I was elected.

Davies:

Do you remember who you were standing against the second time, who that would’ve been and where they were from?

Osborne:

Yes, I’m not sure that I remember that. It’ll be in a book somewhere. Usually the number of votes was fairly close each way.

Davies:

I think one of the concerns probably in those days or even now is, if you have a big Section and a lot of members, it favours that particular candidate and so if they have candidates from small Sections, they don’t want to have in the same election a candidate from a big Section because that candidate is a bit too likely to win, maybe.

Osborne:

That’s right, it could happen.

Davies:

And UK and Republic of Ireland had a lot of members, didn’t it?

Osborne:

It always was one of the biggest Sections.

Davies:

It gave you something a little bit on your side when it came to the vote, perhaps.

Osborne:

To some extent, yes. But a man like Drangeid whose company had sponsored a number of new inventions was in a very strong position.

Regional 8 Director

Davies:

A high profile person. So when you became Region 8 Director or in fact before that, you would’ve been a Region 8 Director-Elect for a year. At that stage, I suppose you got involved with some of the meetings in USA leading on to the fact that when you’re a Director, you’re on the Board of Directors.

Osborne:

Yes, but in that first year, what I remember really was waiting for hours and hours while meetings were held at which only elected Directors could be entered in.

Davies:

So you were outside the meetings?

Osborne:

Oh yes, for hours on end. I think it was realised it was a bit of a waste of everyone’s time.

Davies:

I think generally now, all of those high level meetings, except when they’re in Executive Session, they’re open to people to sit there so it’s expected people like Directors elect will go and sit as observers and learn how things go. But it wasn’t like that in your day?

Osborne:

To some extent it was, but the extent of the Executive Sessions became far too long.

Davies:

And were they really discussing confidential things?

Osborne:

Well, I wasn’t there so I don’t know!

Davies:

After this you were Director which meant you were on the Board of Directors so you were going to these big meetings with the Board of Directors. How did you find that? What was your experience and memories of that?

Osborne:

At first, I think the feeling was half of Region 8 were just there as passengers and not doing very much.

Davies:

But up on the Board of Directors, I suppose you would’ve been almost the only person from Region 8?

Osborne:

Oh yes, it was only for one person from Region 8.

Davies:

There were other Directors from other places from the Divisions and all those kind of people, but you would’ve been the sole person from this part of the world.

Osborne:

That’s right.

Davies:

Did they treat you well and listen to what you had to say?

Osborne:

I think there was every opportunity to get involved and to speak on different subjects and to learn what was going on.

Davies:

And could you convey from the Region 8 perspective things about Region 8 that maybe they wouldn’t have known about otherwise or you could change their minds on anything?

Osborne:

There was always the opportunity to do that but the Region 8 Committee agenda tended to spread with the appointed representatives and the time was not always used effectively.

Davies:

So they {the Region 8 Committee} didn’t give you instructions that when you were at the Board of Directors, ask them this or tell them that, it was up to you, was it?

Osborne:

Oh yes.

Davies:

A lot of the activity would’ve been attending these Board of Directors’ meetings. Did that bring you into contact with many new people? Was that interesting?

Osborne:

With the other Regions, yes, it was interesting, a lot of opportunity to meet people and to go places.

Davies:

Now they have three meetings a year, I suppose?

Osborne:

It was three or four, I can’t remember.

Davies:

So similar, but they went from one place to another.

Osborne:

That’s right.

Davies:

So that was Board of Directors. Were there at that time these other big Boards like Technical Activities Board, Education Activities Board, Regional Activities Board?

Osborne:

Yes, the Regional Activities {Board} of course one was on that as a Regional Director. The other ones, I think I read more than I attended. I could attend some as a visitor.

Davies:

At least that was an opportunity to get to know a very wide range of senior IEEE volunteers.

Osborne:

Oh yes, and staff.

Davies:

The other big activity of a Region 8 Director, as well as being on the Board, is chairing Region 8 Committee meetings. You must’ve chaired four meetings, I suppose in your two years. You would’ve had spring and autumn twice over, as it were. How did they go?

Osborne:

That’s right. The first year was quite lively because my Regional Committee contained more appointed members than we were allowed under the bylaws. And one of the first big arguments between me and the Committee was to cut the number of appointed members to that permitted by the bylaws because the IEEE bylaws were quite often ignored. And the Region 8 Secretary at that time …

Davies:

And that was Bob Winton, wasn’t it?

Osborne:

Yes, and he and I didn’t agree on that point because he had been sponsoring his appointment of too many people.

Davies:

So the wish to conform with the bylaws, did that come from you or was it some message from higher authority?

Osborne:

No, it was from me. But also to try and get the Section Chairs more involved because if these appointed members were doing the jobs, then there was no real opportunity for Section Chairs to get in and get going.

Davies:

And you said Bob Winton had a different viewpoint. What was the basis of that? People have views probably for good reasons.

Osborne:

Well, he had effectively been running Region 8 in a fairly big way for some time including appointed members and the meetings. And I made some quite big changes, particularly to try to get Chapter Chairs active and to get the Regional Committee more active in the formation of Chapters.

Davies:

You might remember that was why I got involved with the Chapter co-ordination activity, which was quite successful, I think.

Osborne:

That’s right. We needed to make some progress there because unless that was done, we didn’t have enough opportunity to recruit new members because at these Chapter meetings was the main business of handing out membership papers to non-members who were interested and many of them were.

Davies:

As you said, you had four meetings and the first two were a bit turbulent because you were trying to change things so does that mean the second two were very peaceful? What about the second two?

Osborne:

Well, it was a bit gradual but we did work all right. For a start, I had to look at the way our agenda was written because we had the really annoying situation when I took over, my first meeting, that the business covered by appointed members was so lengthy that we were lucky if there was half an hour at the end of the day for all the Chapters. And it annoyed me that the Chapters {Chairs} had travelled these distances …

Davies:

So overall, you think you made a lot of good and successful changes?

Osborne:

I made some changes, some would argue it wasn’t good but I was satisfied the way things went. But I wanted to act a bit faster.

Davies:

Do you remember where these Region 8 Committee meetings were that you were chairing, these four meetings?

Osborne:

One of them was in Spain, that was about my second.

Davies:

Madrid would it have been?

Osborne:

Madrid I think, yes, because we had meetings in different Sections.

Davies:

I was just wondering if you remember, we can look it up but whether you actually remember the other places you visited.

Osborne:

I should remember but there were such a large number. It’s in my diary.

{database lists Tel Aviv, Madrid, Paris, Lisbon }

Davies:

So you had your two years as Region 8 Director, two years on the Board of Directors representing in a sense Region 8 but also doing a service on the Board of Directors of IEEE as a whole. Do you feel you left some kind of interesting legacy from that? Personally do you feel that you did what you wanted to or you met too many obstacles? How do you look back on those times?

Osborne:

I don’t think there were any particular obstacles. Just trying to remember ..

Davies:

But you have nice memories of the time.

Osborne:

Oh yes.

Davies:

And what about working with the staff in Piscataway?

Osborne:

That was generally excellent. Don Suppers and his wife, his wife still is a personal friend of mine, he died of course. But useful people to work with.

Davies:

I think many people found through IEEE they made lots and lots of personal friends as well as all the professional benefits. So then you had your two years as Director. I don’t remember at this moment who came immediately after you. Who was elected to follow you, do you remember? The next Director in sequence.

Osborne:

I’ll see if I can remember.

Davies:

Again, we can look it up, we have the information. I just wondered if you had any recollections or comments about the process of nominating your successor, as it were. You said how you yourself were asked to serve and turned it down, then went for election and didn’t get elected and the next time, were elected. How did it work out for the people coming after you …did you take an active part

Osborne:

I think the system is quite good.

Davies:

… in picking someone that you felt would do a good job?

Osborne:

The Past Director was automatically named, I forget what the wording was, but one of his jobs, his main job, was to get names put forward as future Directors. And when I had finished my tour of duty, I was in that position and I did notice we didn’t have many people from Scandinavia. I remember arranging a lunch with four or five of them to try and get them to come out and say who should be selected. And the friends from the Netherlands and Holland and places did come up and one or two of them did become Directors.

Davies: I know from talking about Scandinavia, Peer Martin Larsen was Director …

Osborne: He was one of those, yes.

Davies: He was sometime after you.

Osborne:

Yes, but I was certainly involved in pushing his name forward and he remains a personal friend.

Time in IEEE after Term as Director

Davies:

Other than when you were Past Director, as you’ve said, you were involved in the nominations process for successors, were there other things you did during your time as a Past Director? You’d spent two years as Director, but you were still very much involved in …

Osborne:

Oh yes, several things. One of them was correspondence and activity with the Middle East where we had for years had large numbers of members outside Sections and didn’t have Sections.

Davies:

The Egypt Section goes back a long time, doesn’t it?

Osborne:

Egypt did, yes. But the others did not have Section membership. The UAE, the United Arab Emirates was one of them and also I think Kuwait, and I was involved with both of those and tried to get the Sections established. I would’ve gone to UAE to mark the start of the Section but my term of duty ended so I handed that job to Karsten Drangeid to … not Drangeid, the man from Munich whose name I’ve forgotten. It’ll come back to me. He was my successor as Director.

{next Director was Hugo Rüchardt}

Davies:

Then after you’d done your two years as Past Director – two years as Director then two years, so to speak, as Past Director, then new people are coming in at that level – you were still very active in Region 8 after that, I’m sure.

Osborne:

I was a bit, yes, because my successor wanted a change in the way we ran things and asked me to act as Secretary, which I did.

Davies:

For many years.

Osborne:

Yes, until I got out of it, yes.

Davies:

So that kept you involved in the whole operation.

Osborne:

I was quite closely involved, yes.

Davies:

While we’re speaking about these things, is there anything you have, some memories about being Secretary, something worth saying at this moment? What were the highlights or important things?

Osborne:

Nothing in particular really.

Davies:

I think you’re very modest actually! There must be many, many things really.

Osborne:

There may have been some things I was involved in, yes, trying to work with the different Directors who were coming in.

Davies:

I personally remember you were quite involved in trying to support the new development of Sections after the Berlin Wall came down, countries that were in former Eastern Europe, getting Sections going there which was initially quite difficult, I suppose.

Osborne:

I wasn’t really involved with that, there seemed to be too many Sections coming up there. I got involved … when I was Director, I had a personal request to go and visit Romania which I did twice during my period as Director. And that was at a time when the Romanian government was under the control of a man called Ceausescu and as a result, it was very difficult for the local Secretary and Chairman to work. They were up against it in a big way and I did what I could to help and assist them, even though they couldn’t always attend a Section meeting.

Davies:

So there was an active Section there a fair way back.

Osborne:

Fairly active, it wanted to be active and they needed a bit of support which I tried to give them.

{ in the mid-1980’s, Romania had the status of ‘Section-in-development’; the formal establishment of the Section was in August 1990 }

Davies:

The other country in that part of the world, Poland, had had a Section quite a long time, hadn’t they?

Osborne:

They did. When I went to meetings in Poland, in Warsaw, they were quite well established by that time. I remember the Victoria Hotel at Warsaw and the extremely good concerts we could go to by walking across the square and buying very cheap tickets.

Davies:

Yes, of course, those things were very cheap in those days ...

Osborne:

They were cheap.

Davies:

… in Western money. But they did keep the cost of operas and concerts at a very affordable level.

Osborne:

It was, compared with London it was remarkably cheap and very good value. So we heard some quite useful ……. except we used to go out to dinner at castles which were bitterly cold, where the food was all right and the company was all right but the heating was just non-existent.

Davies:

I think one of the things that you referred to and that other people are often talking about is the transnational aspects of IEEE. It’s a worldwide organisation or at least tried to be, has members all over but we’ve also got a lot of USA members who actually don’t have a good understanding of the world outside of North America.

Osborne:

Plenty of them, yes.

Recollections as Director

Davies:

Did you feel in your time as Director this often presented itself as a problem or something you could help to alleviate? How do you feel the transnational side of things went?

Osborne:

I don’t think I came up against that very much. I was involved for quite a time as the IEEE representative on the television convention held.

Davies:

International Broadcasting Convention, a very big, large scale affair

Osborne:

That’s right, yes, and that was very useful in getting IEEE membership stuff handed out.

Davies:

Relationship between IEEE and IEE

That event was sponsored and organised mainly by the IEE here in Britain.

Osborne:

Through the IEE, yes, but we were one of the sponsoring members and as a result, we had a right to membership stands and other conveniences like that. It helped a lot to get new members.

Davies:

How did you find the relationship between IEEE and IEE?

Osborne:

In my time, it was excellent.

Davies:

Howard Losty or someone was the Secretary?

Osborne:

That’s right because at the discussions in the IEEE Section, there was a feeling that we shouldn’t do much to compete with the IEE.

Davies:

Because they might be upset or something.

Osborne:

That’s right, and I thought we were strong enough to do that. I felt more discussion meetings should be held, so I went to discuss this point with Howard Losty who was the Secretary here at that time and he saw no problem at all with this. He was very helpful, very friendly and I took the opportunity of suggesting having an IEEE membership development stand in this building on the occasion of a lecture here by Casimir who I had brought over to give a lecture.

Davies:

He was someone in the Broadcasting Television business?

Osborne:

Yes, he was and the basic physics of it, from the Netherlands, and he came over and gave a nice paper. We paid for him, his lunch and an overnight hotel, and he came over and it all went very well and we got rid of a lot of IEEE membership information from that table in this building.

Davies:

I guess at the high level points of people, there was always a good working relationship.

Osborne:

Extremely good, as far as I was concerned.

Davies:

And at the lower level of the staff, more junior staff, sometimes there was really quite a lot of tension. I saw from time to time that the IEE staff were against IEEE and they didn’t like this great big IEEE and so on.

Osborne:

That was not IEE policy.

Davies:

It wasn’t policy and I think that co-operation is still good. Perhaps in evidence of that, we’re sitting here in the IET President’s office doing this recording and what more co-operation could you have than that?

And we’re not paying for the room! (Perhaps I should say that very quietly)

Well, you’ve been very silent, Roland. Any things you want to ….

The Impact of IEEE and his Professional Career

Saam:

I’ve been silent because you’ve covered quite systematically the range of things that a Director has done. You being a Past Director, that’s obviously been very pointed. I wondered at the beginning your background and whether you felt that you were in television and a designer of products for the broadcasting industry and so on …

Osborne:

Yes, particularly for the Rediffusion group where I was Head of Technical Developments in Rediffusion Engineering.

Saam:

And did they support IEEE?

Osborne:

Well, they didn’t not support it. The subject of supporting any particular institution didn’t really come up but I think that they …

Saam:

Encouraged you somehow?

Osborne:

Yes, they didn’t really make a lot of difference. At the end of my career with them, we were confused by having our business bought up by Robert Maxwell who then sold it out, down the river, so to speak. So that was a complication, where membership of institutions didn’t matter at all and didn’t have any weight.

Davies:

Were people at that time, from the broadcasting and television industry, were they encouraged to submit papers to conferences by their employers?

Osborne:

Generally, yes. But my own company, because of that Maxwell business, was different.

Davies:

I think from what you’ve said and what we know of one another, in your life as a whole being in IEEE was a very positive thing. Is that a good thing to say?

Osborne:

It’s a very positive thing in friendly, social relations and meeting people, extremely good. In terms of career, I don’t think I needed IEEE membership but it certainly didn’t do any harm.

Davies:

Listening to what you say, that you didn’t need IEEE membership for job related things, what about the other memberships you mentioned – Institute of Physics, Institution of Electrical Engineers and maybe there was the Television Society?

Osborne:

Yes, I belonged to those.

Davies:

Useful to your job more so than IEEE or would you say the same about them?

Osborne:

Well, the company I was working with, it was a peculiar arrangement where the relationship with bodies of that kind didn’t really count for much. Nothing adverse but they didn’t really help particularly because of the way the company was run.

Davies:

That was a particular thing of that particular kind of company?

Osborne:

That’s right, and of course, selling out to Robert Maxwell was the beginning of the end.

Saam:

About how many years was he controlling your company?

Osborne:

Three or four years certainly.

Saam:

So no respect for professionalism or professional activities of people?

Davies:

Well, he was concerned to make money, I suppose, that’s the long and the short of it really.

Osborne:

Yeah. I think I was due to retire at a good time as far as that was concerned.

Davies:

I think the big companies which most of them don’t exist anymore and the big supply industries like the Electricity Board and other nationalised bodies, they did very much support the Institution of Electrical Engineers. They expected their engineers to be members and they would, I think, in many cases, give them time off to attend meetings. That now seems to have changed a great deal.

Osborne:

Oh, has it? I’m out of touch.

Davies:

That’s the impression people have, that industry doesn’t care any longer. They’re much more likely to describe that your company became … if people want to do something in the IEE or the IEEE or whatever, that’s ok but it mustn’t interfere with their job. They’d still expect them do all their jobs and they’d never get time off for it and they’re not given any encouragement, that does seem to happen quite a lot.

Osborne:

In my time, I certainly was given time off to attend meetings but quite often at my own cost. In other words hotel and travel expenses, goes back a number of years. I just paid for my own attendance.

Davies:

I think most people hope that if they go to a conference or something like that, they would expect the employer to pay.

Osborne:

Some do, some don’t, yes I know.

Final Thoughts

Saam:

Would you have a message for youngsters, today’s engineers who want to perceive the value of being a volunteer for IEEE or for any professional organisation to do with their work? You mentioned the social aspect.

Davies:

What do you recommend to a young engineer just starting a career?

Osborne:

I’ve got a grandson actually who has come through a formal apprenticeship with a big space company and he’s made good progress and taking over the responsibilities as a member of their staff. I’d always offered to help as far as I could, maybe not very much, but to give support.

Davies:

And does he see his activities including membership of bodies like the IET or IEEE?

Osborne:

Yes. The argument about IET being IET and not the IEE is another issue.

Davies:

But as a young developing engineer, he does see his place as being a member of one of these organisations?

Osborne:

Oh yes. He got an excellent apprenticeship scheme.

Saam:

The social aspect of what you’ve found with IEEE, was that also available in IEE?

Osborne:

Not so much. IEEE, the social relationships were international in quite a big way and that counts for something.

Davies:

I think IEE had aspirations to be international in various ways, they had overseas branches but it wasn’t in the style or the scale of IEEE.

Osborne:

No, not at all.

Davies: It tended to be linked rather more with, one might say, with the remnants of the British Empire.

Osborne:

It could be.

Davies:

Well, I think this has been very interesting and I believe we’ve covered all the relevant issues but is there something more than any of us feel we should say before we close down …

Osborne:

Yes, I feel there should be some other things I should say.

Davies:

… and you’ve said all you wanted to say, is there anything else you want to add or do you think we’ve covered it pretty well?

Osborne:

The way in which the UK Section was run when I joined it, there was a lack of understanding of the IEEE bylaws and how they worked, particularly with regard to Section rebates and the holding of meetings. Do you think that has changed for the better?

Davies:

Well, I think it’s got much more complicated now and there are many more rules, filling in forms and getting the rebate back on time. Treasurers have to do a fairly substantial and rigorous job. Whether they like it or not is something else but I think it is controlled much more than it used to be in the past.

Osborne:

Before, it wasn’t done properly, even according to the bylaws and the IEEE bylaws that I saw at the time were fairly sensible but were often ignored by Sections.

Davies:

But then I suppose there were Section bylaws to speak about, there were Region bylaws to speak about and there were also the overall IEEE bylaws which should’ve all been consistent with one another and maybe they weren’t.

Osborne:

And they should’ve been read and known and they were not.

Davies:

I think in many ways, quite a lot of things have changed, bylaws have been rewritten and there have been many changes. There are problems perhaps now but they’re different problems from then, I suspect.

Osborne:

Yes, I haven’t caught up what the problems are now.

Davies:

I think perhaps we can now draw the formal interview to a close and I’ll just say thank you very much and we will try to get the transcript done and in due course you’ll have a chance to see it. I believe this is a very valuable thing to have done, so thank you very much.

Osborne:

Well, thank you for arranging it all. By that time, I may think of some other things I should’ve said.


“{….}” denotes information or clarification added subsequently or small amendments requested by the interviewee.