This page offers a look back on a variety of interesting items from Control Engineering's past issues, highlighting content from 50, 25, and 10 years ago.
Transistors vs. tubes debate
Highlight of the recent Electronics Components Conference was a spirited after-dinner debate on whether or not "Transistors will soon replace most tubes." Over 700 heard Dr. Simon Ramo (Ramo-Woolridge Corp.) advise the contestants to "abandon for one evening their usual inclination to present a highly balanced and objective discussion." And, my! Did they abandon! Some sample quotes:
Dr. Louis Ridenour: "The electronic tube is a monstrous and improbable device that burns out quickly."
Maj. Gen. C.S. Irvine: "Transistors are like a new baby that has just learned to say 'goo'."
At the end of the contest, the applause meter (using vacuum tubes) favored the anti-tube faction. But a visiting debating professor's report stated that "both sides showed complete lack of timidity, failed to get to the point, contradicted themselves, and frequently agreed with the opposition." Dr. Ramo called the results "debatable."
The hot tempo of the debate continued on the dance floor, over-riding sultry rhumba tempos provided by Xavier Cugat. Many wives, whirled by their still-stimulated husbands, stated they had "learned things from the debate their husbands never tell them."
Speech synthesizer has control vocabulary
Texas Instruments has given its TM990 microcomputer a voice with the development of the TM990/306 speech synthesizer module. It offers a basic industrial vocabulary, mainly drawn from the field of process control of some 179 words, numbers, and letters which can be used to construct sentences that have a human, though relatively flat inflection.
The speech synthesizer uses a voice compression technique called linear predictive coding, which can generate speech from data rates of less than 2,400 bits per second. The same technology was first applied in a learning aid, Speak & Spell, and more recently in TI's Language Translator. Because of the low data rate, however, the frequency spectrum that the board can produce is restricted, and only a male voice is presently available.
TM990/306 is bus compatible with over 60 other TM990 modules. The speech synthesizer has an onboard amplifier capable of driving an 8 ohm speaker with a 2.5 W output. For greater output power, the preamplifier output on the board can be connected to an external amplifier.
TI expects to have the capability of producing custom vocabularies for the board some time next year. In the near future, bulk storage such as floppy disks will be used to extend the board's vocabulary, with a 1,000-word capacity a short-term goal for TI. Foreign vocabularies are also on the horizon, but that is still at least six months away.
Rockwell wins Reliance Electric from General Signal
Rockwell International Corp., not General Signal Co., will acquire Reliance Electric Co.
More than 61% of Reliance shareholders favored the $31-per-share, $1.6-billion cash offer from Rockwell at the Nov. 18 deadline, helping to defeat General Signal's prior, lower-priced merger agreement with Reliance.
General Signal refused to get into a bidding war with the much larger Rockwell, instead accepting $55.2 million in fines and expenses from Reliance for breaking the deal. Rockwell has about $11 billion in annual sales, compared to $1.7 for General Signal and $1.6 for Reliance.
After a majority of Reliance shareholders showed support for Rockwell's offer, Reliance management severed the $1.3 billion, August merger plan with General Signal. Reliance publicly ignored Rockwell's advances until after the Nov. 18 deadline. Rockwell extended its $31 per share offer until Dec. 6.
With Reliance Electric's 14,000 employees at 43 manufacturing plants world wide, Rockwell's work force will total 86,000.
General Signal's Edmund M. Carpenter, chairman and CEO, maintained that its merger plan would have given shareholders more long-term value than the Rockwell offer.
In other news, ISA has changed its name from Instrument Society of America to ISA, the International Society for Measurement and Control.