It is easy enough to see in proper perspective the progress made during the first quarter-century covered by this survey and to say with confidence that at the end of it electronics technology was rapidly moving into Phase III, the era of high-definition television, industrial electronics, microwaves and radar. Enormous advances have been made during our second quarter-century, but have we in fact moved into a distinctly new phase of development during the period? If so, when and why? Has anything been introduced to compare with such far-reaching developments of the 1911-1936 period as the amplifying/oscillating valve, the exploitation of the HF and VHF bands, telephony, sound broadcasting and scientific electronics?
All those questions are more appropriate to a debating society meeting than subjects for dogmatic pronouncements. It would be ridiculous to deny, though, that most of the techniques of 1936 have been refined almost beyond recognition and that many basically new things have come in. Of these, outstanding examples are transistors and masers, both of which depend on recent extensions of man's knowledge of the nature of matter.
Looking back over the longer term, it seems impossible to find a yardstick to measure the tremendous progress of the full half-century. Nearly all the activities with which we and our readers are now concerned had not even started when we began in 1911. A Rip van Winkle from our Volume I, resuming his readership during the past few months, would find most of our present contents entirely beyond his comprehension.
But our Rip Van Winkle of 1911 would discover one thing to seize upon. In his day, range of communication was the simple yardstick and the main criterion of progress; since wireless began each successive increase of distance had been a landmark. Remembering that Clifden, the wonder-station of his time, had just managed to achieve a dependable range of 2,000 miles, he would read with amazement of 'successful communication out to a distance of 23 million miles' with a space vehicle. And would he be far from the truth in thinking that increase in range gives a fair measure of the achievements of the half-century?
The Puerto Rico ground station for working to the 'Courier' satellite