About Richard Kirby
Kirby interrupted his college studies of electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota to join the Army Signal Corps during World War II. In service he worked to improve the reliability of Army High Frequency. Returning to the US, he worked for a broadcasting corporation in Missouri (1946-48), and spent the next two decades excluding another year at the University of Minnesota, 1950-51) at the National Bureau of Standards, largely at the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory. His research focused on Very High Frequency (VHF) scatter propagation. He was heavily involved in international standards-setting through the Comité Consultatif International des Radiocommunications (CCIR) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), working to set standards for color television, high definition television, advanced mobile systems, and 3G mobile. He also was significantly involved in various IRE and IEEE communications group activities. In 1969 he became director of the Institute for Telecommunication Science. From 1974 to 1994 he went to Geneva to work as director of ITU’s CCIR.
About the Interview
RICHARD KIRBY: An Interview Conducted by David Hochfelder, IEEE History Center, 18 December 1999
Interview # 385 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Richard Kirby, an oral history conducted in 1999 by David Hochfelder, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
INTERVIEW: Richard Kirby
INTERVIEWER: David Hochfelder
DATE: 18 December 1999
PLACE: Seattle, Washington
To start, I would like to hear you give a summary of your career.
I had learned telegraphy between runs as Western Union messenger at age 14 and was an avid licensed radio amateur from age 16 using international Morse. After first year of University in 1939-40, I earned during a year for tuition money. I worked as telegrapher and office manager in Western Union in Minnesota and South Dakota. I returned in September 1941 to the University of Minnesota in electrical engineering. A generous faculty launched me as a teaching assistant for measurements. Within a few months, the U.S. was at war. After two years and 3 months of study, I joined the Army Signal Corps in December 1942.
After military training and Signal Corps Radio School, the Army sent me again to University for 9 months continuation in electrical engineering. Then in May 1944 came assignment to a new Signal Corps “Radio Propagation Unit” close to Washington.
I became a member of the Institute for Radio Engineers in 1944, during my work in the Radio Propagation Unit (RPU). The RPU was established to assist Army frequency-management during WW2. It reported to the Chief Signal Officer at the Pentagon. We applied data obtained from ionospheric sounding to predict usable frequencies to improve reliability of Army short wave (High Frequency) communication links in the field. HF propagation varies strongly with time of day and season, and is susceptible to disturbance by solar emissions, and radio noise.
The propagation predictions recommended frequency use in different regions around the clock. The unit designed and operated ionospheric sounders and noise measuring equipment in operational areas. It analyzed and mapped atmospheric radio noise measure¬ments. Lightning in distant thunderstorms propagates radio noise at short waves over thousands of miles.
The Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (CRPL) of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) supported work of this unit providing guidance and data for prediction of optimum HF frequency utilization. I worked on measure¬ments of radio receiver performance, and calculations for design of field antenna systems. At an NBS field station in Virginia, I assisted a cooperating British scientist Dr. Thomas to refine and test a procedure for measurement of external radio noise. It was in this environment that I joined the Institute of Radio Engineers in the summer of 1944.
In August 1945, two weeks before Japanese surrender, I arrived in the Philippines to report to the Chief Signal Office in GHQ SW Pacific at Manila. I worked under senior officers Colonel E. Holliman and Major Dana K. Bailey until they joined MacArthur’s “Advance Headquarters” in Japan in September. I became responsible in Manila for coordination of frequency use for HF circuits within the Pacific theatre of operations and connecting regions. I also assisted to reinstate commercial radiotelephone services and amateur radio in the Philippines. The Philippine “FCC” issued me the courtesy of an amateur radio license. An RCA radiotelegraph message advised me of the birth of my first son.
In November, I was instructed to move the GHQ Radio Office to Japan and to the new Chief Signal Office in MacArthur’s Headquarter. This was in the Daichi building near the Emperor’s palace in Tokyo. Now a 1st Lieutenant, again working under Holliman and Bailey, I got additional jobs beyond frequency coordination. I explored and reported on Japanese technology for ionospheric observation. This introduced me to a few Japanese laboratories and experts who were to remain lifetime friends. Several would later hold important government, business or academic posts. In February 1946, I returned to the Philippines, to the Signal Corps ionospheric monitoring station near Tacloban, Leyte. I was responsible for a team to continue ionospheric observations and to upgrade the system and facilities. Eligible for repatriation in July 1946, I was replaced and returned to USA.
Released from active duty in August, I took a job as assistance chief engineer in a broadcasting corporation in Missouri. Besides AM broadcasting, I worked on installation of an FM transmitter. My boss, Wesley Koch, was my former Captain in the RPU. Because there were yet few FM receivers among the public, FM broadcasting was supported mainly by revenue associated with AM broadcast. Still not active in IRE meetings, I studied the Proceedings of the IRE.
It was my intention in 1948 to return to University of Minnesota in the autumn, assured a job with the University broadcasting station. But an opportune mission arose. The National Bureau of Standards (CRPL) recruited Dr. Dana Bailey from a West Coast Think Tank. He was to serve as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the post-war Provisional Frequency Board of the International Tele-communication Union, Geneva. On Bailey’s recommendation, I was also hired by NBS to joint the Delegation. This activity met from July 1948 until March 1950; its objective was to plan compatible world- wide frequency assignments for high frequency (short wave) communication in certain bands from 4 to 24 MHz.
FCC Commissioner, Ray Wakefield, headed the U.S. Delegation. A new and effective frequency planning method was successfully devised under Bailey’s leadership, but the conference collapsed when countries insisted on frequency requirements several times greater than capacity of available spectrum. A collateral conference for international HF broadcasting failed for the same reason.
Again returning to U.S.A, I studied at the University of Minnesota in 1950-51 for more physics and electrical engineering. From June 1951 I re-joined the NBS Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (CRPL) in Washington.
IRE and IEEE involvement; IRE/AIEE merger
I had been a “reading” member of IRE from 1944 with little opportunity to participate in meetings. By 1952, employed by NBS for R&D projects, I could join meetings and conferences. I gave papers at scientific meetings and produced reports and publications on radio wave propagation. I continued as member of the IRE Radio Propagation Group and participated in the URSI (International Union for Radio Science). The IRE/IEEE affiliation would be lifetime.
In the 1960’s in IRE I worked closely with David Rau†, Chief Engineer of RCA Communications. I had met him in the ITU Provisional Frequency Board activity. RCA was strong in international communi¬cation, providing radio telephony, telegraphy and photo transmission. Rau became Chairman of IRE Professional Group on Communication Technology. He was certainly involved in the merger to IEEE. With his counterpart Leonard Abraham† of AIEE Communication Division he worked to support merger.
When AIEE and IRE merged in 1964, the IRE Professional Group on Communications, and AIEE Communications Division together became the IEEE Communication Technology Group. Benefits from the merger were clear but the greatest in my view was the consolidation of professional activities in radio, POTS (plain old telephone service), undersea cables and satellite technologies. Many specialist groups retained their identity and eventually became Societies but were closely linked in the new IEEE structure. The Communication Technology Group became and remains the second largest Society in IEEE.
I believe that David Rau and Leonard Abraham for must be credited for key cooperation to make the communications merger work well. I had a close up view of their efforts. I was not personally involved in the merger process, but on request of Rau and Abraham, I undertook to organize the first IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC) sponsored by the new IEEE Communication Technology Group. It was held in June 1965, on the campus of the University of Colorado with 900 participants. I continued for a few years to Chair the ICC Board.
I organized at Boulder a local Chapter of the IEEE Communications Technology Group. For a few years, I served on committees and Boards of the Communication Technology Group. In 1969 I was appointed Director the Institute for Telecommunication Science (ITS) at Boulder. Also in 1969, I welcomed election as Chairman of the IEEE Communication Technology Group for 1970-71. Several proposals, including my own, sought to transform the Group to an IEEE Society as the Computer Society had done earlier. Our Committee was eager and determined. It met in several settings, including my Boulder Office and the Chicago Airport. The structure and constitution for ComSoc were proposed to the IEEE Board of Directors. Especially Ran Slayton, perennial parliamentarian for the Communication Technology Group, led drafting of ComSoc’s Constitution. (Sadly, after many years of faithful and competent contributions to IRE and IEEE, ComSoc lost Ran in 1998.) Don Schilling, our hyper-editor of Communication Technology Group publications, innovated a speedier review process and introduced new series of ComSoc publications.
The IEEE Board of Directors accepted our proposal and the IEEE Communication Society became a reality January 1, 1972, with Alan Culbertson to be the first President. I appreciated becoming the first ComSoc “Vice President International”, an especially interesting post with my international activities.
ICC, in its 37th year, meets in many countries, reaffirming IEEE’s transnational vision. Also by now a number of ComSoc Presidents have been chosen from outside U.S.A, including not only Canada, but also Europe and South America. The first ICC in Europe was held in the Netherlands. There have been several others. In Geneva, Jack Ryan and I proposed to the Switzerland Section of IEEE (more than 1500 members) to sponsor an ICC. It was held in Geneva in 1993. (Jack worked at AT&T and was long Chairman of ITU CCITT Study Group 11 on Switching and Signaling; he has long chaired the Committee for the IEEE Award in International Telecommunication.)
Regarding the Merger, Did the fact that you had one individual from RCA and another individual from AT&T reflect a sort of split between the wired and wireless folks?
Your question is perceptive. After arrival of the trans-oceanic cable and satellites, the IEEE’s integration proved valuable for professional activity. From about 1920 to 1957 trans-Atlantic/Pacific telephony was via radio. Most radio interests were active in IRE while many AIEE members participated in both. The main U.S.-based international radiocommunication carriers were AT&T, RCA, ITT and Mackay Radio, carrying telephony and telegraphy. AT&T and RCA had enormous antenna fields (especially rhombics) on East and West seacoasts. The Western Union cable capacity was fully loaded; even more international telegraphy was carried by radio until arrival of the trans-ocean telephone cable. IRE represented a broad base in radio science and technology. Ian Coggashall, a leader in American telegraphy for more than 30 years was an IRE member and chose to publish his historical 1944 article on the “Centenary of the Telegraph” in the Proceedings of IRE. Of course AIEE made great contributions to telecommunication and had broad strength in electrical engineering.
CCIR and ITU; International Radio Standards
Okay. Would you talk about your involvement with International Radio Standards? And a summary of your career.
The CCIR was created in 1927. Participation consisted of prominent radio scientists and engineers from about 25 countries. It became part of ITU only in 1949. CCIR recommendations were not binding but highly respected to assure effective technology, compatibility and procedures. CCIR work was suspended from 1939 because of the War of 1939-45. A post-war Plenipotentiary Conference of ITU countries, held in Atlantic City in 1948, established CCIR as a permanent organ of the ITU. By January 1949, Dr. Balth Van der Pol (from among the earlier participants) was elected Director. CCIR headquarters were established on the shore of Lake Geneva. CCITT became part of ITU in 1953.
In 1953, I was invited with the U.S. Delegation to the CCIR Plenary Assembly in London. Study Groups for various services as radio telephony/ telegraphy, broadcasting, maritime systems, and microwave links reported to the Assembly for approval of their Recommendations and their future studies. Study Group 3 dealt with. International high frequency telephony and telegraphy. I was a “learner” assistant to Ed Bemis, an AT&T expert in HF radio, responsible for U.S. activities for Study Group 3. All over-ocean telephony and a lot of telegraphy were by radio. Dr. Van Duren, Chief Engineer of Netherlands PTT and the inventor of the original ARQ error control technology, was chairman of this Study Group. Van Duren became a life-time friend. On Bemis’ retirement from AT&T, I became chairman of the U.S. preparatory group. Later I worked in several CCIR Study Groups, participating in all but one Plenary Assembly.
One of the toughest “plenary” battles took place in 1966 in Oslo. The U.S.A and some others sought an international standard for color television, as color was not yet universal. I was assigned to assist RCA’s George Brown in preparation and the meeting at Oslo. In the end, the meeting failed to agree. The consequential color television choices were NTSC, PAL and SECAM, to be selected by each country. An historical account was published in George Brown’s book Part of which I was.
At the subsequent 1970 Plenary Assembly in India, I presented the U.S. proposal for a new Study Group on Spectrum matters, which was approved and identified as Study Group 1. This group and became my responsibility in the U.S.
In 1974 I was elected Director of ITU’s CCIR and moved with my family to Geneva. I served in the post more than 20 years and saw the spread of IEEE membership in many countries. In 1978, CCIR celebrated its 50th Anniversary at the Plenary Assembly in Japan. The pace of CCIR work speeded up sharply in 1980’s. I was reelected Director in 1982, and at four year intervals until my retirement at the end of 1994. I participated in a number of Study Group campaigns to develop important standards. One was high definition television (Study Group 11) pursued strongly by Japan and Europe, and supported by U.S. broadcasting networks and top engineers of NBC, CBS ABC. The Japanese version (yet analog) was more advanced and showed beautiful large-screen performance. After wide contribution to the standard, U.S. and other CCIR Study Group participants supported the Japanese proposal and submitted the Recommendation to the Plenary Assembly at Dubrovnik in 1986. Forces reminiscent of 1966 at Oslo rejected approval at the Plenary Assembly. The forceful Chairman of CCIR Study Group 11 was Prof. Mark Krivochev a pioneer Russian television expert who strongly supported the recommendation. (In tribute to his professional contributions and leadership over 20 years he became an early Honorary Member of IEEE).
I also worked actively with Study Group 8 from the earliest efforts to advance mobile systems, begun about 1985. This project took a long time, reflecting concern of operators to amortize existing investments, and intense competition among manufacturers as to technology and standards.
After retirement from ITU, I was a consultant to several companies in radio regulation (spectrum) matters, but from 1996 onward I devoted half time to the standards program for 3G mobile now also labeled IMT2000. I was a member of the U.S. TIA committee dealing with CDMA standard, as well as delegations to ITU. In 1998, Japan broke the logjam. Japan’s existing mobile system was considered overloaded, needing new spectrum and new technology. The ITU process had mostly agreed on “Performance requirements” but not on technology and specifications needed for a standard. The Japanese delegation insisted that if ITU could not proceed toward a standard, Japan would go its own way! This warning was thrust into the last hours of the meeting. After much caucusing and “telephoning headquarters” (especially the American delegation remained divided) the Chairman of the U.S. Delegation, Rick Engleman (FCC) made the wise and brave decision: the U.S. would accept that the ITU Study Group proceeds to invite proposals toward standardization. Intense efforts followed in national and regional standards organizations. By year 2000 five standards had been produced. All were approved by ITU.
In spite of the years of difficulties, a steadfast and diplomatic Canadian Chairman Michael Callendar held this project together over a decade and steered it to completion. Japan is now proceeding with Wideband CDMA, presently the most widely supported technology. Wider implementation of “3rd generation” mobile (“cellular”) has been significantly slowed by recession in telecommunication business. The axiom that “nature abhors a vacuum” suggests it unlikely that a couple of years of stalemate will protect standards approved in the year 2000.
Okay. Would you talk about your involvement with International Radio Standards?
The standards organizations for radio projects in which I participated or maintained close liaison were the CCIR International Radiocommunication Consultative Committee, now the ITU Radiocommunication Sector; the ITU-former CCITT International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee, now called the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector; the ETSI European Telecommunication Standards Institute; the FCC Federal Communications Commission; the TIA for 3G mobile (in my consultant role after retirement from ITU); as liaison for the ISO or International Organization for Standardization; as a liaison for the IEC or International Electrotechnical Commission; and the IEEE Standards Association (liaison)
I contributed to standards projects in organizations above except those labeled “liaison.” I followed ANSI T1 work but did not participate. While I made use of IEEE standards over many years, I became a member of the IEEE Standards Association only recently.
At least half of ITU-R (Formerly CCIR) Recommendations are intended to achieve compatible, non-interfering use of the frequency spectrum. Such recommendations provide quantitative criteria for avoiding interference in use of the radio frequency spectrum. Some such recommendations are adopted by regulatory conferences as radio regulations. Others remain Recommendations but are tantamount to standards without regulatory status. Examples are recommendations for limits of emission bandwidths, unwanted emissions or spurious emissions.
From 1993, the Director’s role was expanded to include management of International Frequency Registration activities as well as former CCIR. The consolidation became the ITU Radiocommunication Sector.
After 20 years, I retired from ITU in 1995 and undertook consulting in radio standards and regulations. From 1996 to 2000, I worked half time in the U.S. and international processes on standards or “3rd generation mobile”.
National Bureau of Standards; continuous VHF scatter propagation
Let’s talk about your career with the National Bureau of Standards.
After I returned to USA from the Provisional Frequency Board 1948-50 and a year at University, I rejoined the NBS Central Radio Propagation Laboratory in Washington DC. NBS moved radio and cryogenics activities to a new laboratory in Boulder, CO in 1955, close to the University of Colorado. NBS moved its Washington activities to Gaithersburg, Md. At Boulder, CRPL activities were split in the mid 60’s split between atmospheric science (today party of NOAA) and telecommunication activities (today part of NTIA, National Telecommunication and Information Administration). The Institute of Telecommunication Sciences The telecommunication my own activities, Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) at Boulder reports to NTIA, which reports to the NTIA. (Other segments of the former NBS at Boulder, today part of NIST, comprise information technology and science for time and frequency.)
From 1951 my immediate boss was Ross Bateman, former FCC engineer, radio genius, avid radio amateur at VHF and UHF with Bailey as his close adviser. My first project from 1951 was with these two. It was the study of VHF (30-300 MHz) signal scatter from the ionospheric D region, about 80 km above the earth, which promised reliable low-capacity communication avoiding ionospheric disruptions caused by solar emissions and related magnetic storms. The VHF scatter technology was especially interesting for military communication; the Signal Corps and the Air Force funded the project. The mode of propagation had been proposed by an elite group of scientists: Henry Booker (Cornell), Jerry Weisner (MIT), Dana Bailey and Ross Bateman of NBS. I became responsible for experimental activities: field engineering, installations, and measurements; data acquisition and analysis. Colleagues carried out a collateral project on propagation via ionized meteor trails.
My task was study of continuous VHF scatter propagation. This required transmitting stations with 30 kW emission, highly directive antennas, and low noise receivers. Colleagues provided advanced receivers and ultra-stable frequency control to facilitate very narrow bandwidth reception. I established field stations for measurements, monitored transmission, described performance and phenomena. An initial experiment from Cedar Rapids, IA, to Sterling, VA, was promising; we quickly established Arctic and sub-Arctic sites, as ionospheric disruptions are most frequent and severe at high latitudes within 30 thirty degrees of magnetic poles North and South.
After experiments in North America and Europe we established the reliability of transmission and system requirements in various situations. I co-authored (with Bailey and Bateman) the early paper on VHF ionospheric scatter transmission, published in 1955 in the Proceedings of the IRE. The technique was put into service for almost ten years. Although we had rich support from many experts available in NBS, Bailey, Bateman, and I were awarded the Department of Commerce Gold Medal for that project. Within less than 10 years, telephone cables and satellites superseded the VHF scatter technology. In the process, we also learned much about propagation via meteors and colleagues established early high-speed transmission via meteor links in 1951.
I enjoyed all facets of telecommunication. In 1954, the NBS had decided to move Radio and some other work to Boulder, Colorado. The NBS Director asked me to organize a small team to go to the Boulder area and arrange field sites for our research in radio wave propagation. After reporting on field sites, I had an offer from AT&T West Street NY, to work on the trans-Atlantic cable project. This was attractive to me. I advised my Bateman and the Director of NBS of my intentions. The Director, Allen Astin, was a great scientist, Director, and inspiring personality. I expected him to congratulate me but instead he asked me not to do it. “NBS is very good for you and you will not be sorry!” My telephone/telegraph soul wanted to go to AT&T, but my loyalty to Astin, the environment he provided, and others who had treated me well, decided that I would stay with NBS. Backing out left me regretting the cable but active in new radio projects. This era was a rich boom in telecommunications with frequent offers of employment. Bateman, my earlier boss in NBS invited me to return to Washington as partner in his new firm Telecommunications, Inc.
In 1955 we moved to new NBS laboratories in Colorado. The family was happy with good schools and opportunities.
Was Bailey at the National Bureau of Standards?
Another appropriate question, as I have mentioned his name a few times. Dr. Dana K. Bailey, well known first for his contributions in WW2, was later recruited by NBS (from an eminent West Coast think tank) to serve as adviser on the U.S. delegation to the ITU Provisional Frequency Board (PFB).
I spoke earlier of his painstaking work well accepted by the PFB. Bailey was a notable scientist, Rhodes scholar, Oxford graduate and Ph.D., my senior by 7 years. He was for me a creative, generous, mentor and catalyst. After the PFB and return to Geneva, Bailey continued with NBS Central Radio Propagation Laboratory. He worked over 25 years for the NBS-CRPL and National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration. He was Chairman of the CCIR Ionospheric Radio Propagation Study Group for more than 15 years. He was a broad and prolific physicist, naturalist, and explorer. On his death in 1998, the IEEE Radio Propagation Society published a testimonial pamphlet authored by colleagues from many countries. Of course I contributed.
By 1955, NBS radioactivities were moved to Boulder, CO. Besides CRPL, NBS Divisions on Time and Frequency R&D, and on Cryogenics, were transferred to Boulder. The time and frequency work pioneered atomic clocks, and disseminated time and frequency by radio broadcast. In that move we lost Bateman, and Bailey for a couple of years, to business in the Washington area. The head my Division at Boulder, my new boss, was Dr. Ralph Slutz, physicist and computer pioneer. He was another great boss and we continue communication. . He appointed me initially his assistant, then responsible for Ionospheric Telecommunication and later Radio Systems. Bailey rejoined NBS a few years later. With free hand for research and publication, he remained until retirement.
The CRPL was supported largely by contracts from other agencies, and often from their contractors for specialized R&D or information. Such support flowed freely and much information was provided for operational radio systems.
Leadership roles: NBS, Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee, CCIR, ITU
My activities over 23 years at NBS included R&D, and later supervision of a wide ranges of programs for “other Agencies”, civil as well as military. During this period, important organizational evolution took place. About 1964, the National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) was created. Because radio propagation activities had contributed significantly to atmospheric information relevant to weather forecasting, all activities, which comprised the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory, were blanketed into the new NOAA. This was effective with respect to atmospheric matters, but did not enhance prospects for telecommunications work in which we were heavily engaged.
My new boss at Boulder arranged for me to spend a year in Washington in the “Commerce Science Fellows” program. I was attached to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Dr. Herbert Holliman (formerly GE) who was effectively in charge of all technical organizations in the Department of Commerce, including NBS, Patent Office, NOAA, and Maritime Service, and the CAA before it became independent FAA. He encouraged me to work closely with him. He created two committees to deal with telecommunications, one an industry/academic committee to study improvement of radio spectrum management. The other concerned a review of the “Role of the Department of Commerce in Telecommunications”. He made me secretary of both committees, included proposals for agendas and participants, preparing reports. Holliman had very good relations with the White House in those days of Lyndon Johnson. He was also close to the Director of NOAA to which we were currently attached. Both were interested to find a new home and mission for telecommunication activities in the Department of Commerce (DOC). We published a classic report on spectrum management, which included discussion of controlled auctions for assignment of frequency bands, which, after many proposals and studies in government, became real about 20 years later. More hopeful for our work at Boulder was the establishment of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The process of several steps took three years to establish the National Telecommunication and Information Administration. As a preliminary step he established the DOC Office of Telecommunications (OT) and invited me to head it. I wanted to stay in Boulder and help from there. He appointed the then Division Director for Time and Frequency of NBS-Boulder as Director OT. I commuted to Washington for relations with our new headquarters. I admired Holliman and we remained friends for many years. When he left the post he became President of the University of Oklahoma, later director of a technology policy program at MIT.
In the meantime, with upgrading and the relocation of CAA (Civil Aviation Authority to become an independent FAA) I was drafted to represent the Department of Commerce on IRAC, the famous Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee. This was the important vehicle for coordination and management of U.S. government frequencies. It took almost a year to recruit a permanent representative, which meant a lot of commuting. In 1969 the Commerce Department Office of Telecommunications, on recommendation of an external advisory committee, appointed me Director of the Institute for Telecommunication Science at Boulder. We had escaped NOAA, but we had a lot to learn; commuting to Washington did not diminish.
In 1974 I was elected Director of the ITU’s CCIR. I have recorded that history under “Standards”. After 20 years, in that post, I retired from ITU in 1995 and undertook consulting in radio standards and regulations.
From 1996 to 2000, I worked half time in the U.S. and international process on standards or “3rd generation mobile”. As a side activity until from 1975 to 1995, I authored the chapter on radio wave propagation in McGraw-Hill’s Electronics Engineering handbook with physical descriptions and calculation methods. I revised and updated it about every five years.
Interactions of NBS and IEEE
Would you talk, just in general terms, about the interaction between the National Bureau of Standards and IEEE? Do you see any conflict of interest between the IEEE and ITU Standards?
Your question is in the present, but as for NBS & NIST, I never knew of conflict with IEEE in radio standards. I should point out that the “ITU Tele-communication Standardization Sector is by far the larger standardization element in ITU, dealing mainly with standards “other-than-radio”. I am unaware of conflicts with IEEE. Current and past history reflects cooperation and mutual support between NIST and IEEE. Many experts in NIST are active members and leaders in IEEE. I believe that there has always been cooperation in the standards area. Today shows close and supporting relationship. For example, NIST (at Boulder CO) participates in and supports development of the important IEEE Draft Standard 802.16 for advanced LAN-MAN network technology. A NIST expert (Dr. Roger Marks) is chairman of this IEEE group. NIST certainly doesn’t try to create everything in-house.
Some ITU standards refer to IEEE and other sources, as ISO. ITU publishes many standards, mostly developed in ITU Study Groups, often with reference to standards of other organizations. ITU worked for a number of years 3rd generation mobile technology to develop and approve a recommendation on performance and other baselines requirements. Then several “Standards Development Organizations” produced detailed specifications for five systems. These specifications were committed to ITU for review, approval, and publication. Many other ITU Recommendations include or refer to standards developed and submitted by recognize standards organization such as ISO, and regional or national sources such as ETSI, ANSI, TIA-
Communication satellite technology, launched about 6 years after the trans-Atlantic-Telephony cable, appeared to threaten cable’s role. About 1963 the U.S. government sanctioned a consortium for International Communication Satellite service centered in Washington. To encourage both satellite and cable services in this exploratory period, the FCC first stabilized the situation with the 50-50 rules. After growth of cable capacity, and later optical fiber, many competing satellite systems arose and provided variety competitive services. Now cables are offering high capacity service and high quality channels. Satellites are providing many other applications.
- 1 About Richard Kirby
- 2 About the Interview
- 3 Copyright Statement
- 4 Interview