IRE History 1912-1963


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History of the Institute of Radio Engineers 1912-1963


At the turn of the century, a new electrical technology, radio, or wireless as it was originally known, emerged out of principles coming from physics, most notably the electromagnetic spectrum. Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi’s 1901 wireless broadcast of Morse code across the Atlantic began a global period of feverish activity, especially among young men with an technological bent. It was the “hot” technology of the day. By 1912, it was a young profession, with radio telegraph stations connecting ships at sea. A small group of men representing local societies in New York and Boston met in New York in May 1912, and led by Robert Marriott, Alfred Goldsmith, and John V.L Hogan, formed the Institute of Radio Engineers. Marriott became the first IRE president. To a large extent, they modeled their Institute on the AIEE, with membership grades, a journal, local sections, standards activities, and technical meetings, but there were other influences as well. They established their journal, the Proceedings of the IRE along the lines of scientific journals, with papers directly submitted and peer review, which allowed for faster publication than the AIEE’s policy that papers be presented at meetings first. They deliberately did not include “American” in their name, to signify the transnational nature of radio.

Growth of Radio

Radio itself was transformed by the development of the vacuum tube amplifier, the first electronic device, from its origins in the Audion three-element vacuum or electron tube, patented in 1906 by inventor and 1930 IRE President Lee de Forest. Morse code yielded to sound and radio broadcasting swept the world. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of U.S. homes with radio climbed from 0 to 14 million.