2004 IEEE Conference on the History of Electronics


2004 IEEE Conference on the History of Electronics


The 2004 IEEE Conference on the History of Electronics (CHE2004) was the fifth in a series of conferences sponsored by the IEEE History Committee and the IEEE History Center at Rutgers University. The profound role electronics have had in shaping the modern world, from the invention of the Fleming diode to the present, makes this an important topic of historical study.

This workshop was held at the historic Bletchley Park in the United Kingdom. This was an ideal site for such a meeting with conference facilities in the Victorian mansion and historical exhibits there and elsewhere in the park-like grounds. It was also an appropriate site, as it was here during World War II that the transition from electromechanical to electronic computing was made in the effort to decrypt intercepted messages. This is an IEEE Milestone, the citation states:

On this site during the 1939-45 World War, 12,000 men and women broke the German Lorenz and Enigma ciphers, as well as Japanese and Italian codes and ciphers. They used innovative mathematical analysis and were assisted by two computing machines developed here by teams led by Alan Turing: the electro-mechanical Bombe developed with Gordon Welchman, and the electronic Colossus designed by Tommy Flowers. These achievements greatly shortened the war, thereby saving countless lives.

Approximately one hundred people attended the conference. These engineers, historians, and museum curators came from some twenty countries on five continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America). More than fifty papers were presented in nineteen sessions over the three days of the conference. In addition, there was a panel discussion on the history of computer business, and there were historical tours of the Bletchley Park grounds and collections. The computer pioneer Sir Maurice Wilkes opened the conference with an overview of the beginnings of electronics. This conference again featured a worldwide Student History Paper Contest. A grant from the IEEE Foundation made it possible to provide travel funds for winners of the contest to participate in the conference. The conference concluded with an awards luncheon, honoring these student winners, where Bernard Finn of the Smithsonian Institution gave a talk on the artifacts of electronics history. The IEEE History Center would like to thank the IEEE Foundation and the EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) for their support of the conference.

Other events were held by the Institution of Electrical Engineers and University College London to commemorate the Centenary of the Fleming Diode.

Conference Papers

Akera, Atsushi, The Circulation of Knowledge and the Origins of the ENIAC: (Or, What Was and Was Not Innovative About the American Wartime Project)

Alencar, Marcelo, Thiago Alencar and Juraci F. Galdino, When Communications Entered the War

Barnes, Susan, Transforming the Computer from a Calculating Machine Into a Global Telecommunication Network

Bauer, Arthur, The Significance of German Electronic Engineering in the 1930s

Bissell, Chris, A Great Disappearing Act: The Electronic Analogue Computer

Blumtritt, Oskar, The Lieben Valve: a German "Universal Amplifier"

Boone, James V., The WWII Cryptologic Heritage of the United States' Computer and Communications Industries

Braun, Hans-Joachim, Music Engineers : The Remarkable Career of Winston E. Kock, Electronic Organ Designer and NASA Chief of Electronics

Ciciora, Walter, The History of Modern Cable Television Technology

Davies, Hugh, Creative Explorations of the Glitch in Music

Dilhac, Jean-Marie, From Tele-communicare to Telecommunications

Dittmann, Frank, The Development of Power Electronics in Europe

Finn, Barney, History of Electronics: Looking at Things

Goerth, Joachim, The Proliferation of Tube Types

Grier, David Allen, Electronic Communication and Scientific Research: Precursors of the Nineteenth Century

Hartson, Ted E., How the World Changed Television

Hong, Sungook, A History of the Regeneration Circuit: From Invention to Patent Litigation

Khan, Asif Islam, Pre-1900 Semiconductor Research and Semiconductor Device Applications

Konstantinova, Anna, Alexander Popov – a Great Contributor to the Development of Wireless Communication

Landman, Bob, Electronics in the Development of Modern Medicine

Landy, Leigh, There’s Good News and There’s Bad News: The impact of new technologies on music since the arrival of household electricity and the phonograph including potential adventures to look forward to

Marsh, Allison, Tracking the PUMA

Matsumoto, Eiju, The History of Electric Measuring Instruments and Active Components

Momah, Ego, History of Wireless Technology

Mukherjee, Sujoy, Microwaves—a Journey in Reshaping World Technology

Onifade, Debo, History of the Computer

Routray, Sudhir Kumar, History of Electronics

Schmitt, Hans J., The Rise and Fall of the Vacuum-Tube

Schwartz, Mischa, Origins of Carrier Multiplexing-Major George Owen Squier and AT&T

Sheckler, Addison, The Beginning of the Semiconductor World: General Electric’s Role

St. Germain, Louise, Fire, Ice, and Politics: The Evolution of Domestic Satellite Communications in Canada

Stephens, Carlene E., Timekeeping in the Electronic Century: The Case of the Quartz Wristwatch

Tu, Michael Yu-Herng, An Informed Populace: Electronics, Information, and the Development of American Republicanism

van Dormael, Armand, The "French" Transistor

Varshney, Lav R., Engineering Theory and Mathematics in the Early Development of Information Theory

Wilkes, Maurice, Sir, The Origins and Growth of Electronic Engineering – a Personal View

Yano, Masao, History of Power Electronics for Motor Drives in Japan

Yuste, Antonio Perez and Magdalena Salazar Palma, The First Wireless Remote Control: The Telekine of Torres Quevedo

Student Paper Contest


A valuable part of the 2004 IEEE Conference on the History of Electronics was the participation, in the form of a poster session and oral presentations, of nine IEEE Student Members from around the world.

These students were the winners of a history paper competition sponsored by the IEEE Foundation. The contest, announced in 2003, asked students to research some topic in the history of electronics and to present their conclusions in a 10- to 20-page paper. From some two dozen papers received, eight papers were designated as Region winners or co-winners. The authors of these papers, along with the author of an outstanding honorable-mention paper, were invited to attend the conference, expenses paid.

The nine students were Asif Islam Khan from Bangladesh (Region 10), Allison Marsh from Maryland (Region 2), Ego Momah from Nigeria (Region 8), Sujoy Mukherjee from West Bengal, India (Region 10), Debo Onifade from Nigeria (Region 8), Sudhir Routray from England (Region 8), Louise St.Germain from Victoria, Canada (Region 7), Michael Tu from Pennsylvania (Region 2), and Lav Varshney from New York (Region 1).

The students attended the entire conference. They presented their research in short oral presentations on the first day of the conference and in a poster session on the second day. Their papers will be published as part of the conference proceedings. In an awards luncheon on the last day of the conference all nine students were honored. Also, three special awards, for presentation at the conference, were announced: Sujoy Mukherjee (first place), Asif Islam Khan (second place), and Michael Tu (third place).


CHE2004 Conference Chair

  • Wallace S. Read

CHE2004 Organizing Committee

  • Roland J. Saam, Chair
  • Michael N. Geselowitz
  • Arthur P. Stern
  • Sir Tony Cleaver

CHE2004 Program Committee

  • Frederik Nebeker, Chair
  • Bernard S. Finn
  • John Impagliazzo
  • Earl Swartzlander
  • John Vardalas

Photo gallery