It was 30 years ago today. . .
Ron Wilson, Content Director- October 1, 2011
In many ways, the entire landscape has changed. Most obviously, advancing technology has altered our notions of smart, small, and fast. An article in that first issue surveyed video-inspection systems—in those days, closed-circuit cameras bolted to microscopes or parts handlers—and warned that the technology was in its infancy. No one thought to use the word automated with video inspection. Another article profiled optical microscopes for IC inspection. In those days, you could trace circuits with a desktop microscope, and examine the quality of individual connections.
Frequencies have gone up a bit, too. The oscilloscope vendors in 1981 were fighting over the heart of the market—still the 50-MHz portable. Tektronix introduced a microwave spectrum analyzer that reached a sobering 1.8 GHz. It was fully programmable—meaning it accepted commands over GPIB. One leading-edge vendor had pushed the speed of LSI (large-scale integration, for those who weren’t around then) test systems to a blistering 10 MHz.
The players have changed a bit as well. Industry majors advertising in that first issue included GenRad, Fairchild Instruments, Marconi, HHB, Teradyne, and Leader. Conspicuously, neither Hewlett-Packard nor Tektronix chose to advertise in that issue. Perhaps editorial ethics have changed a bit, too. The publisher, one Susan Chouinard, was also editor-in-chief. By coincidence, HP is only mentioned twice in 102 pages, both times in descriptions of someone else’s product. Tek fared better, with a product brief and mention in an opinion piece.
The big event in the electronics industry was Wescon, cited several times as the location of major product announcements. But our new magazine meant to change all that, unveiling its own conference scheduled for the next April in San Jose.
Despite all that has changed, some things from our first issue are remarkably familiar. One example is the domain of the magazine, ranging from inspection systems and automated test equipment to benchtop and field-service instruments. Things to be measured varied as well, from microwaves to analog signals, digital circuits—this was the dawn of logic analyzers and microprocessor emulators—and nonelectrical questions such as surface roughness, package alignment, and light.
The magazine’s approach to these subjects might seem pretty familiar today. The focus was definitely on products, but augmented by news, and by articles on people. There was even an invitation to a proto-social network: the Test & Measurement User’s Forum.
The world outside was familiar too, in a grim way. The industry was in deep recession in 1981, and one article asks if vendors of automated test equipment will survive. And the world was dangerous. An article discusses instrument export restrictions and outright espionage in the wake of the Soviet seizure of Afghanistan.
Well, then, here’s to change and stasis. Please lift your glass to the 30th anniversary of T&MW. May it see many more! T&MW