First-Hand:Recollections on the Merger of IRE and AIEE

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Recollections on the Merger of IRE and AIEE

Submitted by Julian Reitman

My story about the merger of IRE and AIEE starts off after returning to CCNY after release from the Army Air Force. At CCNY there was an IRE student chapter and after learning electronics courtesy of the Army, I joined the IRE as a student. Later, working as an engineer, the chief engineer pointed out that if I attended an IRE meeting at the Engineering Center in New York City there would be an allowance for dinner. So encouraged, many meetings were attended. Among them were the introduction of transistors, long playing records and meeting older radio engineers.

A few years later a few of us established an IRE sub-section in Westchester County and later one in Fairfield County Connecticut. Part of being an active IRE member was recruiting speakers and developing a group to review approaches to aid in the design of complex systems, digital was emerging. During those times the sub-section grew and was active and for a time I was the chair.

Along about that time, I received a form to apply for promotion to IRE Senior Member which I filled out and mailed. Instead of promotion to Senior Member, I received a letter pointing out that I had no patents, publications or other noteworthy background and was not worthy of the promotion. My quick response was to point out that my resume included my last efforts in designing computer communications systems, and working currently in the defense area where system proposals were proprietary. I do not remember if my earlier engineering jobs in acoustics, servo-mechanisms, nuclear detectors and analog computers were mentioned. Shortly thereafter Senior Membership arrived.

After the merger that formed IEEE, I received a communication asking if I could attend a meeting at Case Western where a systems group might evolve. With support from the company I went to Cleveland. At the meeting it was clear there were many from AIEE and they knew each other. Those with IRE background were fewer and had not met before. Gradually after the Case Western gathering a systems oriented group became established with members from various backgrounds. It did not matter what the previous affiliation was, we were seeing common problems in many different applications. I was invited to join the ADCOM as we tried to find a way to become an accepted IEEE group, Systems, Man and Cybernetics. I was the last chair in 1969 before the formal acceptance in 1970.

Conclusion, had my Senior Member application been accepted, IRE headquarters would have no record that someone was interested in the design of complex systems. As it turned out there was much to be gained as many engineers with similar ideas were able to meet and exchange experiences. The efforts to establish SMC helped me learn the ways of NYC IEEE headquarters. This was a necessary experience gained, useful in obtaining IEEE support in 1967 to establish the first of the Winter Simulation Conferences that still continue today.

I enjoyed the activity of the period with the many thinkers from industry, GE, Westinghouse, Bell Labs, RCA and a few from academia.