First-Hand:Ally of Peace, Global Telecommunications in the Information Age
Submitted by Alfred J. Siegmeth
I was born on May 10, 1911, in Komarom, Hungary. In 1918, the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy lost World War I and Hungary's territory was reduced to one third of its original size. After my father returned from his four year military engagement, our family moved to Budapest.
The disintegration of our country was evident. The subsequent economic depression combined with unmanageable food shortages made my early years uneventful and dull. My primitive toys had not satisfied my ambitions. My interest drifted toward the enjoyment of our town's wired broadcast system.
This daily service had been operating since 1893. A Hungarian entrepreneur, Theodore Puskas, had initiated the basic operational capabilities of this "news" network. It provided regular financial, theatrical, local and international reports in addition to newscasts, weather reports, and accurate time announcements.
Basically I loved this information service; but I detested the wire jungles mounted on our roof tops around our city. I hated this ecological eyesore. Around 1922, a school friend of mine informed me, with big excitement, that his father subscribed to a German magazine entitled, The Austrian Radio Amateur. I asked him to loan me some older copies of this periodical. This was my first encounter with radio and electronics and I recognized immediately the fact that Marconi's phenomenal "wireless" invention would be extremely useful for dissemination of news and knowledge.
I was captivated when, in 1923, I received with my self-made crystal receiver the "first" experimental radio broadcasts radiated in Budapest. Subsequently, I listened on our wired network to a lecture series about the controversial evolutionary theories of life outlined by Charles Darwin. This complex information together with the mystical complexities of electronics were somewhat above my head. I started to realize during my later adolescent years that it would be to my benefit to acquire a college level knowledge base.
In 1940, I joined the Jungarian Philips Corporation, a subsidiary of the Dutch Philips Company. I acted there, on a corporate level, as the engineering director of two manufacturing plants. In addition, I formed an engineering research team and coordinated the development of a demonstration unit of a small radar system for the Hungarian military.
Toward the end of World War II, in November of 1944, the German military dismantled our radio transmitter tube factory and transferred the hardware and the associated employees, including our family with two small children, to Vienna, Austria. As the war came to an end, we moved our team in a western direction in three consecutive steps from Vienna to Munich, Germany. Fortunately, we avoided the military zones occupied by the Russians.
The cannibalistic dismantling of our transmitter tube production facility by the German military and our forced transfer with our employees propelled us to the lowest point in our lives. The positive side of this action was the fact that it saved our family and our employees from a meaningless life under a communistic rule. To improve our family's food supply, for almost two years, I repaired many inoperable radio sets in the farmlands of Bavaria and bartered my electronic knowledge for food staples.
In 1949, the U.S. Congress passed an Immigration Act for displaced persons. After we received an invitation from our U.S. sponsor, Mr. Dave Marx, president of a radio company in Albany, New York, we knew our dreams and plans to enter the United States would be realized. Despite my early difficulties with the spoken English language, in 1949, I started my new engineering career in the U.S. as the Chief Engineer of the W.T. La Rose Company, in Troy, New York.
I developed there, during four years, a line of specialized, dielectric heater models destined for the plastic and rubber industries. They were used to enhance manufacturing productivity, and the quality of plastic and rubber products.
During 1953, we moved to California and I returned to my field of telecommunications. In Los Angeles, I joined the Resdel Engineering Corporation. (In 1954, we received our U.S. Citizenships with dignity and honor.) At Resdel, I coordinated the system engineering efforts for the development and production of precision, passive and active Doppler type, launch vehicle tracking systems, called DOVAP and UDOP, for NASA and the U.S. Air Force. My appointments were Chief Engineer and Senior Vice President.
We handled only government contracts; thus, consequently our work load was never stable enough to keep our key employees. During my thirteen years there, we sailed through hectic and unpleasant firing and hiring phases. I have found that most of the other small electronics companies had the same experience.
In 1966, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) invited me to act as the Deep Space Network Manager of the Pioneer 6 through 11 missions. In 1969, with the cooperation of a newly formed Pioneer Support Team, we initiated, developed and implemented for the Deep Space Network (DSN) all additional capabilities specified in our system engineering plan for the successful tracking and data acquisition support of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. They were mankind's "first" fly by visitors of Jupitor and Saturn, the largest planets of the solar system.
I envisioned already, around 1955, that earth satellites would provide continuous surveillance of the surface of our earth and would detect military activities by any nation. International news acquired and dispersed via media elements, such as radio, TV and newspapers, would inhibit monarchs, dictators and key political functionaries to build up their own, super empires by defrauding public funds and national treasures.
My studies of humankind's history have shown that all wars or even skirmishes were initiated by insufficient, untrue and twisted information exchanges. As a regular rule, monarchs declared wars without the knowledge and approval of their subjects and their military. The world wide development of the expanding telecommunications systems of the INFORMATION AGE will be the real guardians of PEACE. The World's harmony must be maintained and controlled by well planned and organized information exchanges, negotiations and treaties. To enhance the life standards of undeveloped nations, they must participate in an intensive knowledge exchange methods.