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Oral-History:Donald Cox

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About Donald Cox

Cox received his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Microwave Electronics (1960) at the University of Nebraska (1959). He spent three years as a Communications Research and Development Officer at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, working on the X-20 Dynasoar, then went to Stanford University for his PhD (1967). He worked at Bell Labs from 1967 to the AT&T divestiture in 1983, to Bellcore until 1993, managing radio research activity, and then to Stanford as a Professor of Electrical Engineering. Cox’s career research focuse has been on mobile wireless communication. At Bell Laboratories Cox took multipath measurements of the effects of buildings, houses, trees, etc., on the propagation of radio waves; measured time delay and Doppler shift in multipath; studied dynamic channel allocation for mobile systems; looked for ways of using smaller cells and coverage areas, took propagation measurements, and studied co-channel interference and antenna diversity. At Bellcore, Cox developed digital mobile systems, particularly the Wireless Access Communication System (WACS), a.k.a. a wireless loop. WACS is now the (as yet unimplemented) US standard, known as the Personal Access Communication System (PACS) standard. Cox’s research at Stanford includes network and circuit issues regarding mobile phones (particularly multicarrier transmission), interference cancellation, error detection, amplifier technology, and smart antennas.


Cox discusses the effects of the AT&T divestiture on the nature of research and development nationwide. He discusses some of his colleagues at Bell Labs/Bellcore, including Bob Lucky, Bob Wilson, and Bill Jakes. He discusses the different environments of the private sector and the university. He mentions his involvement with the IRE, the AIEE, IEEE, the Communications Society, and the IEEE Journal of Selected Areas in Communications. He discusses the importance of the Communications Society for the mobile wireless field, and the importance of the mobile wireless field for the Communications Society. He discusses changes in communications engineering during his career, focusing on digital computer signal processing and network control, microprocessors, and computer random logic. He speculates that wireless communications will be increasingly important, but always dependent on a core of wired communications. He mention particular technical challenges such as network integration and hand off issues.