First-Hand:IEEE Orange County Section Early History with Details about the L.A. Council, Wescon And Personalities Thereof


IEEE Orange County Section Early History with Details about the L.A. Council, Wescon And Personalities Thereof

Submitted by Benton Bejach

How many of you know that the last grizzly bear in the Santa Ana mountains was killed in 1908?

Why mention this ? It is because this is a well documented event in local history and the last of a long series of documented encounters with local grizzlies.

As a member of your local IEEE ad hoc History Committee I have developed a new sense of admiration for historians. The patience and persistence it takes for people like Doris Goodwin, David McCullough and Stephen Ambrose to get their facts straight is phenomenal. It is easy to remember the personalities and generalities but most difficult to be specific.

For example, in describing the IEEE OC interaction with Wescon, the former Western Electronic Show and Convention, IEEE History interviews with Bruce Angwin, Los Angeles and Bud Eldon San Francisco and former IEEE President totaling over 50 pages fail to completely answer my questions. This is due to the fact that Wescon continued on after their interviews so its entire history could not be told by them. Both men were intimately involved from inception and for many years thereafter with this organization which returned some $150,000,000. to its IRE and IEEE owners over the years. These funds were distributed to all sections in our Region 6 but 80% was split between the LA and SF Councils whose members provided the speakers and managed Wescon facilities. This largesse caused Eric Herz, former CEO of IEEE to comment “A wealthy organization is a happy organization”. Wescon was a big thing in my life because it was a place every year where you would meet old engineering and industry friends to socialize a bit and almost as important, a place to keep up with your profession by attending engineering lectures either deepening or broadening one’s expertise.

Much of my career has been in the rotating machinery and control industry. In 1948 I joined the AIEE, one of two technical organizations which created the IEEE, their successor organization.

The IEEE LA Council was created at the same time the IEEE was. Its electrical engineering predecessor was the AIEE whose electrical engineers’ specialties were largely in the fields of power, telephone and rotating machinery and these were the prime technical areas served by the AIEE although there were also a few technical groups in the AIEE which we would classify as electronic.

California was an early state to become electrified due to abundant hydro-electric sources in the Sierras. Originally San Francisco and other Bay area cities built the transmission lines carrying this hydro power to them. However it was only a matter of time until power was also being supplied to inland cities and farms. Hydropower in the Southern Sierra and our local mountains soon followed. This farm usage led to the development of the deep well turbine and centrifugal pump Industry not only in the Bay area but also in Los Angeles. Companies such as Byron Jackson, Jacuzzi and Winthrope come to mind. The resulting electrification of farms and orchards made possible California’s incomparable agricultural industry. As an aside, knowledge of pump installations in North Africa gave the deep well pump companies an opportunity to contribute their in depth well location information to the U.S. Military. Useful indeed logistically for thirsty soldiers.

Lee DeForest’s early triode efforts in the S.F. Bay area gave that area a headstart in developing today’s Silicon Valley. More directly it was Fred Terman, Dean of Electrical Engineering at Stanford who inspired close cooperation between engineers and management becoming the true father of Silicon Valley and its venture capitalists.

Since the creation of the IEEE in 1963, the Los Angeles.Council has been composed of a group of contiguous geographical electrical engineering sections and Socities.. Quoting from today’s five page L.A. Council’s operations manual, “The LAC has been formed by agreement of its Sections and exists at their will.” As it exists today the LAC is composed of six Sections including: Buenaventura, Central Coast, China Lake/Bakersfield, Foothill, Metropolitan L.A., and San Fernando. These sections include a very large geographical area reaching from Vista to the south and all the way to Mammoth Lakes in the north. Historically hydro power for Los Angeles and vicinity came from as far north as Huntington Lake “the most used water in the world” due to numerous Pelton water wheels driving generators following the water downstream some 10,000 feet. This energy was used over 100 years ago to power the Henry Huntington owned “Red Car” line which ran from Mt. Wilson to Newport Beach providing for many years the best public transportation system our area has ever known.

Let me tell you how things were circa 1970 when I was your Section Chairman. To represent our Section at LAC monthly meetings I drove to LA meeting at the L.A. Dept. Of Water and Power across the street from the L.A. Music Center. Past L.A. LAC chairmen included chief engineers of this department including Floyd Goss and Howard Christy. Other cities in LA County also had municipal power companies and representatives from these agencies as well as So. California Edison often were Council members selected by their respective sections. Technical Groups were sponsored and supported by the LAC in those days to the exclusion of the member sections That is completely unlike today’s situation in Orange County where Technical Groups appear to be completely integrated into Section activities.

You may be interested that in the late 1950’s, the AIEE supported So. California Edison’s San Onofre nuclear power plant construction. Edison’s engineering vice president was, of course, an AIEE member. Steam turbine technology was long established by this time. Unfortunately not all the electro-chemistry of pumping radioactive water was understood then and even now, is in the news as San Onofre tries to recover its reputation and resume the generation of power.

I remember going to the dedication. delighted that everything was up to date in Orange County.

Are engineers really inherently boring? I answer with a resounding “NO”. When I think of so many of the people I worked with in industry as well as those I met in the AIEE and IEEE, there is no adequate way to explain their influence on my life or to pay tribute to them. In particular I would like to mention Floyd Goss, chief engineer of L.A. Power and Light, who possessed a truly magnetic personality, Ralph Lamm, Chief Engineer of Bendix Corp in the San Fernando

Valley,and born in Arizona’s Gadsdenn purchase. Others include John Guerrera, Region 6 Director and President of IEEE, Jim Mulligan, IEEE President, Burgess Dempster, IEEE member, and President of WEMA also President of EECO a Santa Ana electronics company whose former employees referred to him as “the Abe Lincoln of electronics”. Earlier in my career at General Electric I worked with and/or under people like Dr. Irving Langmuir, co-inventor of ductile tungsten, Vincent Schaeffer, inventor of cloud seeding, Phillip Alger, World renowned rotating machinery engineer. On a human interest level I will never forget Doug Sadler, a local engineering management individual with many years of experience in what was to become the electronics industry. In the 1930’s Doug’s job included driving in the morning to downtown Los Angeles to pick up parts for Gilfillan, a local radio manufacturing company and in the afternoon delivering and collecting for the radios sold to local stores.

The story doesn’t end there either since even today I continue to make or renew friendships within our Orange County IEEE Section and am inspired by them for their scholastic, engineering and management achievements. For example, in recent weeks I’ve rubbed shoulders with Allen Stubberud and Stan White while contributing to this 50th Anniversary celebration. It has also been great to renew my friendship with Art Holub, Charlie Hobbs, Louis Knobbe and Oliver Watson all former OC IEEE Section Chairmen from over 40 years ago.

Now for a little continuing education. About a month ago I attended a local SSCS meeting given by Dr. Xicheng Jiang, of Broadcom whose title there is Distinguished Engineer! The subject was “100db Class D Amplifier in 65nm CMOS” followed by the author’s “ Circuit Techniques to overcome Class D Audio Amplifier limitations in Mobile Devices”. WOW! This was an outstanding lecture largely because Dr. Jiang was so thorough in explaining his subject especially in overcoming artifacts inherent in his very complex circuitry. Later I read in our local OC Business Newspaper that Broadcom hopes to supply chips for the Iphone and I dare say this amplifier may well be part of such an effort. This brings to mind the old question about the chicken and the egg. If you are in the business of manufacturing large integrated circuits you really need large and complex circuitry to fill in the available chip geometry. Or is it vice versa? Many of us have designed analog audio amplifiers or even simple Class D amplifiers using a PWM followed by a simple low pass filter. The upside of all Dr. Jiang’s complexity has to be a readily available product, far superior to the less complex circuits of yesteryear.