Possible Milestones for IEEE Long Island Section


1901 Tesla Wardenclyffe Lab (Shoreham)

Wardenclyffe or the Tesla Tower (-1901–1917) in Shoreham was intended to be a wireless telecommunications tower.  It was designed by Nikola Tesla for commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting and the demonstration of the transmission of power without wires.  It never achieved its primary goal, the wireless transmission of power, and was abandoned when J.P. Morgan withdrew financial support.  Architect Stanford White of the famous McKim, Mead and White architectural firm designed the 94-ft by 94-ft brick building.

Tesla envisioned the tower as the first step in the achievement of a “World System” which with the perfection of wireless would demonstrate the transmission of power without wires as well as:
1. Permit instant communication, “through television and telephone.”
2. Interconnect telegraph exchanges all over the world.
3. Establish secret and non-interferable government telegraph services.
4. Provide universal distribution of music and news by telegraph, telephone and the press.
5. Interconnect stock tickers throughout the world.
6. Remotely control the movement of ships and track their position.
7. Distribute photos, drawings and records.

The Tesla Wardenclyffe Project (TWP) is an organization whose objective is to preserve and restore the remains of the laboratory as a museum and science center and to have the 16-acre site listed in the National Register of Historic places.  The TWP is working with the Long Island group, Friends of Science East, to achieve their objective.  Recognizing and commemorating the Wardenclyffe site as a milestone event by the IEEE would certainly add to the credibility of the TWP and strengthen their advocacy for the preservation and proposed reutilization of the site.

1915 Radiotelephone Broadcast to Grand Fork, ND, by Goldsmith (Sayville)

1919 1st RCA Laboratory (Riverhead)

During WWI, the U.S. Navy essentially controlled the manufacture of wireless radio and sought to continue to do so after the war. In April of 1919, Navy personnel met with representatives of G.E. to ask that they not sell their Alexanderson Alternators to the British Marcon Company and its subsidiary, The Marconi Wireless telegraph Company of America.  In return the Navy would, if G.E. created an American owned radio company, provide sufficient contracts to secure an American monoploly of long-distance radio communications.  As a result G.E. bought American Marconi and organized what would become the Radio Corporation of America.
One night during the summer of 1920, an unknown party broke into a small wooden shack near Riverhead on Long Island and made off with a war-surplus tent, complete with poles, pegs, and guy ropes.  Stolen was RCA’s first laboratory. RCA had been formed on October 20, 1919 less than a year before. The site later became the location for RCA’s receiving station for worldwide communications.
The tent had been erected at Riverhead in the spring of 1920 as the field headquarters for a group of young engineers.  Among them were E.F.W. Alexanderson who had developed the Alexanderson Alternator.  At the time it was the most promising CW apparatus for transoceanic communications. Alexanderson was the head of the lab and working for him on the development of low frequency antennas was Harold Beverage who described his task as, “trying to perk up reception.”  It was here, at Riverhead that Beverage developed the technique of diversity radio reception, which eliminated short-term fading, one of the most serious drawbacks to using short wave radio for long distance communications.  He went on to do much of his most important work on antennas here.
When the Riverhead site was closed by RCA, it was sold to the Town of Riverhead for $1. A collection of books and photos may have been donated to the Riverhead Free Library.

1921 Harding Transatlantic Broadcast (Relayed from Rocky Point)

On June 14th 1922, President Harding became the first president to be heard on radio when his speech dedicating the Francis Scott Key memorial at Fort McHenry was broadcast on station WEAR.  More than a year earlier, on November 5th 1921, he was also the first President to broadcast a message, which originated in the White House, transmitted by landline to RCA’s Radio Central at Rocky Point and then relayed overseas to 28 countries, not in voice, but in Morse Code.
Rocky Point is on the north shore of Long Island, New York, 7 miles east of Port Jefferson.  History was made at RCA’s Radio Central facilities at Rocky Point when it transmitted its first transatlantic message. President Harding pressed a button in his office at the White House, which started the generators at Radio Central and marked a milestone in wireless progress.
When RCA was formed by GE after purchasing the Marconi Company of Amarica, they soon built the largest transmitting and receiving stations in the world at Rocky Point and Riverhead, L.I.  These were tied by telephone line to their message center at Broad Street in Manhattan.
Short waves for international point-to-point communications were unknown at the time, so long waves were used and 412 feet high steel towers were constructed. Radio Central encompassed 6400 acres spread over a 10 square mile area.  The first twelve antenna towers, which were 1250' apart, had cross arms 150 feet long. 8,000 tons of concrete were poured for the tower foundations, which were sunk nine feet below the ground. In total, 1800 tons of steel was used in constructing these towers. Each antenna consisted of 16 bronze cables stretched horizontally from tower to tower.  Fifty miles of cable was used for the first two antenna systems with the ground system consisting of 450 miles of buried copper wire.  The first transmitter building covered a space 60' x 130' and housed two 200 kilowatt high frequency transmitting alternators and equipment.
Radio Central was demolished in the 1970s. The site still contains concrete ruins, downed telephone poles and radio towers owned by the State of New York and is part of the Rocky Point Natural Resources Management Area in the protected Long Island Central Pine Barrens.

1929 First Blind Flight by Doolittle at Mitchel Field (Garden City)

During the 1920s there was slow but steady progress in the development of cockpit instruments to assist pilots flying during conditions of low visibility. The instruments available were mechanical and while they could provide altitude, attitude, direction and air speed information, they could not provide position, which is crucial during landing.  Position information awaited a radio guidance system whose development began in 1926 by the Bureau of Standards.

The first blind flight occurred on September 24, 1929 when U.S. Army Air Force pilot Lt. James Doolittle, who had a Doctorate in Aeronautics from MIT, working with the Guggenheim Foundation’s Full Flight Laboratory at Mitchel Field, took off and landed in heavy fog after flying a 15 mile course without ever seeing the ground.  Crucial to the success of the flight, in addition to the newly developed Kollsman altimeter and the Sperry directional gyro, was the homing and range beacon low frequency receiver.  The receiver was built by Radio frequency Laboratories probably for the Bureau of Standards and loaned to the Full Flight Laboratory at Mitchel Field.  The homing range antenna was installed on the west side of the field and the fan type marker beacon along the leg of the homing range on the east side.

The receiver output was a pair of vibrating reeds.  If the pilot was to the right of the marker beacon’s fan type antenna beam pattern, the left reed vibrated more vigorously.  If on the center of the beam, both reeds vibrated with equal deflections.  Doolittle, in his autobiography, states that the Kollsman window altimeter, a new design developed for the Full Flight Laboratory, “was synchronized by radio.”

The Daniel Guggenheim Foundation provided funding for the Full Flight Laboratory for two years beginning in 1928.  The Long Island home and estate of the Guggenheims was in Sands Point and is now a part of the Nassau County Parks, Recreation and Museum Department.

The Cradle of Aviation Museum has a display commemorating the Doolittle Blind Flight. It features a replica of the cockpit instrument panel but without the vibrating reed instrument display.  The museum has indicated that it would be interested in displaying an IEEE plaque commemorating the flight.

1941 Millar’s Two-phase PHK Modulator Carrier System at Western Union Experimental Lab (Watermill)

Julian Z. Millar invented the two-phase PSK (Phase Shift Keying) modulator carrier system, which consumed less bandwidth and performed better than some of the other systems at Western Union.

(Excerpted from the February 2010 edition of The Pulse.)

1941-1996 Sperry Gyroscope Company (Lake Success)

The company was located in Lake Success from 1943 for more than 50 years. It originally occupied 147 acres and extended east from Lakeville Road to New Hyde Park Road and south from Marcus Avenue to Union Turnpike in two buildings.  During WWII it was the largest non-aircraft engineering company on Long Island occupying two buildings with 1.4 million square feet and 22,000 employees.  It can be considered as a milestone candidate not because of any single event or technology innovation but because of the unusual diversity in its applications of electronics and electrical engineering to a wide range of military and civilian products for aircraft, ships, submarines and information systems.

The company was founded in 1910 by Elmer Ambrose Sperry to manufacture marine navigation and ship stabilizer equipment based chiefly on the gyyroscopw and his invention of the gyrocompass.  By the end of World War I the compant had diversified into aviation with the development of navigation instruments and remote aerial torpedoes (the first guided missiles).  In 1933, it became a holding company, the Sperry Corporation, which included the original Sperry Gyroscope Company, Ford Instrument Company and Intercontinental Aviation among others.

By the beginning of World War II Sperry had become a highly specialized technology company and a major War Department contractor manufacturing a wide array of military products such as computer controlled bombsights, bomber and warship gun turrets, anti-aircraft and searchlight gun directors and airborne radar systems.  In the five years from 1938 to 1943, the corporation’s revenue jumped from $18 million to $470 million. Products were classified in eight categories: Radio and Radar, Searchlights, Ship’s Navigational Equipment, Hydraulic Gear, Air Armament Equipment, Army Ordnance Equipment, Air Navigational Equipment and Naval Ordnance Equipment. By the end of the war these same categories included civilian as well as military products.  In 1973 the Sperry Corporation merged with Remington Rand to become Sperry Rand, a multi-divisional global organization with $3.2 billion in sales and more than 88,000 employees with 71 plants and associated companies in 33 countries.

Ground was broken in the summer of 1941 for the Sperry Gyroscope Company plant in Lake Success to ensure its ability to meet the ever-increasing number of defense orders they were receiving.  By 1943 the Lake Success plant was the headquarters of the Sperry Corporation and the largest by far of its 15 major plants.

Soon after WWII, the Surface Armament Division at Lake Success developed the target acquisition and guidance radar for the TERRIER and TALOS missile's fire control systems.  It also pioneered in underwater sonar surveillance and fire control systems.  The Systems Management Division developed the gyroscope based inertial guidance systems for the Polaris and Poseidon ICBM nuclear submarines and the instrument and control systems for the Trieste bathyscapth and the NR-1 nuclear research submarine.   

For several years after 1946 United Nations headquarters was located in the company’s west building. Today only the west building remains.  Although recently redeveloped and refurbished primarily as a bioscience research rental park, it retains its original architectural features and is easily recognized.  The lobby still contains the remnants of an interactive flat screen display showing the evolution of the building from its construction to its present use.  The property is managed by Winthrop Management .

1946 Wheeler IFF Work (Smithtown)

Identifying a milestone associated with Wheeler’s IFF work at Smithtown is somewhat of a conundrum. While Wheeler led a Hazeltine team in the development of IFF equipment and antennas, it was a continuation of original work by the British. The IFF antenna engineering was done in Little Neck with no mention of Smithtown. Wheeler did design an antenna test range for Hazeltine in the 50s that was located in Smithtown, apparently while still running Wheeler Laboratories. The excerpt below is from Frederik Nebeker’s 1992 book based on an oral history of Wheeler that makes the point.

And was that a series of devices, IFF devices?
an a'Yes. What I call the second-generation designs for the ordinary IFF equipment were the main part of that project. The second-generation design involved major improvements in the circuit equipment and particularly the high-frequency technology, which was not too familiar yet. The frequency range of that system was 157 to 187 megahertz. That was one of the frequency ranges that was just maturing at that time. So we had to become expert in this new frequency range. With that came a whole new list of antennas required. My limited exposure to antennas in the middle 'thirties gave me a very good springboard to tackle these antenna problems. So I set upantenna group in a shack near our company headquarters in Little Neck. And that was one of the most famous groups in the view of the Navy during the war. So three or four bright young engineers in my antenna group were responsible for one after another-innovative antenna to meet specifically the needs of the Navy for IFF.
You would design an antenna for a particular ship or plane?
No. For types — one shipboard and one airborne, and for ground-based landing beacons. All of those things were involved. The largest quantity of equipment was the transponder, which was carried by potential targets; in the Navy that meant surface vessels, military and civilian, and all Navy aircraft. So at the end of the war our equipment and antenna designs were carried on every Navy potential target.
Aircraft and surface vessels?
Yes. Also submarines, since submarines when they surfaced were radar targets. I have a patent on each of maybe half a dozen different types of antennas for these specific purposes.

Alfred Lopez, a member of the Long Island Chapter, wrote a history of Wheeler Laboratories in the April issue of The Pulse in which he mentions that Wheeler was given the IEEE Medal of Honor and that the Section has named an award after him.
Perhaps the possible milestone candidate should be for the Wheeler Laboratories design work in electrically shortened antennas, which might include both the Little Neck and Smithtown antenna ranges. Wheeler is already recognized for his work on IFF antennas for ships, submarines and aircraft.

1947 – 1951 Reformulation of Field Theory as Microwave Network at Brooklyn Polytechnic’s Microwave Research Institute (Farmingdale)

1955 American Bosch Arma Corporation’s B-52 Fire-control System and/or the Invention of the PROM (Garden City)

The American Bosch Arma Corporation was formed in 1954 and the Arma Division moved into its new facility at Roosevelt Field in Garden City from the various hangers it had previously occupied.  During the time it was at Roosevelt Field, Arma developed the advanced MD9 Fire Control System for the B-52 Bomber and Wen Tsing Chow invented the Programmable Read Only Memory (PROM), the essential chip for booting a computer.  Arma’s location at Roosevelt Field is not known.

MD9 Fire Control System:
During World War II a fire control system for bombers was initially developed for the B-29 back-up bomber, the B-32, by the Sperry Gyroscope Company. The final version for the B-29 was produced by the General Electric Company. These systems utilized optical sighting methods and electro-mechanical analog computers for the remote control of gun turrets by a single gunner who tracked a target and manually entered target parameters.  The Arma MD9 system for the B-52 established a new standard of performance for bombers defense systems by incorporating a closed loop TV system combined with radar to search for, acquire and track airborne targets.

Programmable Read Only Chip:
The PROM was invented in 1956 by Wen Tsing Chow while working for Arma in Roosevelt Field. The idea for the PROM was conceived as a result of a request by United States Air Force for a more flexible and secure method for the storing of targeting information in the Atlas ICBM’s airborne computer. Storing data was accomplished by “burning” the “whiskers” of diodes with a current overload. Arma engineers also developed the first PROM programming machines.

1958 Higginbotham’s Pioneering Video Game (Brookhaven)

Designed by William Higginbotham in 1958 at Brookhaven National Labs on Long Island, NY, Tennis for Two is commonly regarded as the first video game ever designed. The technology consisted of an analog Donner computer linked to an oscilloscope used as display. The game was played by two people using hand controls. The engineers at Brookhaven rebuilt this game in 1997 for the 50th anniversary of the BNL labs.  After working two months to improve the original circuits using integrated circuits, they finally got the game to work as it did in 1958.

(Excerpted from the February 2010 issue of The Pulse.)


1968 - 1970 World’s First Microprocessor Flew in the Grumman F-14 "Tom Cat" (Calverton)

The design work for a MOS-LSI microprocessor chip set was started in June 1968 and completed by June 1970.  This highly integrated computer chip set was designed for the US Navy F14A “TomCat” fighter jet by Mr. Steve Geller and Mr. Ray Holt while working for Garrett AiResearch Corp under contract from Grumman Aircraft, the prime contractor for the US Navy.  The MOS-LSI chips were manufactured by American Microsystems, Inc of Santa Clara, California. The MOS-LSI chip set was part of the Central Air Data Computer (CADC) which had the function of controlling the moving surfaces of the aircraft and the displaying of pilot information. The CADC received input from five sources, 1) static pressure sensor, dynamic pressure sensor, analog pilot information, temperature probe, and digital switch pilot input.  The output of the CADC controlled the moving surfaces of the aircraft. These were the wings, maneuver flaps, and the glove vane controls. The CADC also controlled four cockpit displays for, Mach Speed, Altitude, Air Speed, and Vertical Speed.  The CADC was a redundant system with real-time self-testing built-in. Any single failure from one system would switch over to the other.

Two state-of-the-art quartz sensors, a 20-bit high precision analog-to-digital converter, a 20-bit high precision digital-to-analog converter, the MOS-LSI chip set, and a very efficient power unit made up the complete CADC.  A team of over 25 managers, engineers, programmers, and technicians from AiResearch and American Microsystems labored for three years to accomplish a design feat never before attempted, a complete state-of-the-art, highly integrated, digital air data computer.  Previous designs were based around mechanical technology, consisting of precision gears and cams.                                                                   (Excerpted from http://firstmicroprocessor.com/)

1969 Grumman’s Lunar Excursion Module (Bethpage)

The Lunar Excursion Module or LEM was designed solely to land on the moon, and to ascend from the lunar surface to the command module.  It had a limited heat shield and was of a construction so lightweight that it would not have been able to fly in Earth gravity. It carried two crew members and consisted of two stages, a descent and an ascent stage. The descent stage incorporated compartments in which cargo such as the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package and Lunar Rover could be carried.
(Excerpted from the February 2010 issue of The Pulse.)

1969 1st Networked ATM (Garden City)

The ATM, or Automatic Teller Machine, allows bank customers to withdraw money without the need for a live bank teller.  ATM machines were originally connected directly to an individual bank. In 1974, the first networked ATM machines were created.  This allowed customers to get cash from any ATM machine in the world, regardless of bank affiliation.  It also allowed banks to place ATMs in more areas, including
shopping centers, sports arenas and even on cruise ships.  Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, interbank networks like Cirrus and Plus were created to authorize transactions between banks.
(Excerpted from the February 2010 issue of The Pulse.)

1973 Lauterbur’s Development of MRI/NMR (Stony Brook)

On March 16th, 1973 a short paper was published in Nature entitled "Image formation by induced local interaction; examples employing magnetic resonance".  In it a new technique was described in which the image of the cross-section of an object placed in a gradient magnetic field could be made. The author was Paul Lauterbur, a Professor of Chemistry at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Professor Lauterbur recognized objects, such as tissue, consisted primarily of protons, that could oscillate in a gradient magnetic field, absorb energy and in returning to their initial state of equilibrium, radiate energy in the UHF radio band.  An image could be produced based on the spatial variations in the phase and frequency of the radio frequency energy being absorbed and emitted by the imaged object. The human body which consist mostly of water is a rich source of the protons required by the technique.
Among the first images taken by Lauterbur were a clam his daughter had collected on the beach at Long Island Sound, green peppers and two test tubes of heavy water within a beaker of ordinary water.  No other imaging technique in existence at that time could distinguish between two different kinds of water.
While Lauterbur conducted his work at Stony Brook, the best Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machine on the campus belonged to the chemistry department.  He would use it at night for experimentation and then carefully change the settings back to their original values when he left.  A replica of his original NMR machine is located in the chemistry building on the SUNY campus at Stony Brook.

1975 The Birth of Computer-Generated Video Graphics

In about 1975, the “group now known as Pixar” originated on Long Island at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in Old Westbury. Several members of the original group are still with Pixar (which is now part of Disney). In 1979 Dr. Ed Catmull who was in charge of the Computer Graphics Lab and Dr. Alvay Ray Smith left NYIT to join Lucasfilm Ltd. in Caliornia. In 1986 the group under Ed Catmull was purchased by Steve Jobs after he left Apple. The newly independent company, Pixar, was headed by Jobs, who served as Chairman and Chief Executive. Officer of Pixar. Dr. Edwin Catmull served as Chief Technology Officer and Dr. Alvy Ray Smith as Executive Vice President and Director. In 2001, Edwin Catmull was named President of Pixar.