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Oral-History:IEEE Oral History Collection

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About IEEE Oral History Collection

"Simply put, oral history collects spoken memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews."
Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History, 1995

IEEE has been conducting, recording, and transcribing oral histories with significant individuals in its fields of interest since the late 1960s. To date, IEEE has completed over 490 of these, and has posted them here on the IEEE Global History Network.

You might be wondering why we call these documents "oral histories" rather than "interviews." An interview is a finished product that you might see in the newspaper, on TV, or in some other medium. It is meant to convey particular information.

An oral history, on the other hand, is considered by historians to be a "primary source," raw data from which they will, in combination with other raw data, create historical narratives. Although a historian might also use a magazine interview or a videotaped speech as a primary source, an oral history is a document created by themselves or another historian through the informal recording of a dialogue between interviewer and interviewee. Although edited by the interviewer for flow and consistency, and by the interviewee to confirm that his or her words have been appropriately captured, an oral history transcript is relatively unedited when compared to other forms of interview.

The IEEE History Center is determined to preserve as source material for the future historians of technology the personal memories of pioneers in the electrical, electronics, and computer fields, the technologists who transformed the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. We also preserve the personal memories of those who have played major roles in IEEE itself.

When we first began collecting these interviews, we assumed that the only people who would see the results would be professional historians. With the advent of the Web, text recognition, and related technologies, it is suddenly possible for us to make these wonderful documents available to anyone, any time.

But as a result, there may be a misunderstanding about what these are. Since they are minimally edited, they may not "read" like other interviews you have seen. They may seem disorganized, reflecting the differences between a conversation and a printed story. Statements made by interviewees have not been checked for accuracy. We hope you will enjoy and find useful the stories of these fascinating men and women, but please take this disclaimer into account as you make use of them.

Finally, please note that the IEEE History Center holds the rights to these documents. We encourage use by historians, teachers, and others within the accepted United States standards of Fair Use. For any other use, you must first obtain our express written permission:

To look for an oral history by a particular individual, search the GHN for his or her name, or see the complete list of all the oral histories posted on the GHN.

List of Oral History Collections

Some of the IEEE History Center's oral histories are grouped into distinct collections. Click below on the collection that interests you:

IEEE Merger History Interviews

IEEE Past Presidents Oral Histories

IEEE Communications Society Interviews

IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society

IEEE/IEJ Japanese Oral History Interviews

MIT Rad Lab Interviews

RCA Engineers Interviews

Frederick E. Terman Associates Oral History Interviews

National Science Foundation (NSF) Oral History Project

Marconi Fellows Interviews

Westinghouse Electronic Systems Oral History Project

Women in Computing Oral History Project