In 1960 we started with an instrumentation company called WILTRON,
eventually building it and several of its collateral companies up
to a value of $180 million and then merging it with a large Japanese
company in the same field. In the process, many old time WILTRON employees
became millionaires many times over.
WILTRON was an independent company from its founding in 1960 to its
sale in 1991, and I was president during all that time. Being president
of a new company is glamorous. If successful, you get instant respect.
On the other hand, there are those 18-hour days that consume your
life. After a few years I resolved that I would not get burned out
that way. So after I got the company up and running, I made a bargain
with my key employees that I would take time off regularly to travel,
to study, to do things other than just work all the time. That is
how I was able to spend much time abroad.
Businessmen have a lot of power; they can greatly influence other
peoples lives. And businessmen have their foibles. Perhaps I
had more than the others. This being an autobiography, there is an
instinctive motivation to tell it like it is. which I will do later
on in this story.
Since I had worked in the Hewlett-Packard laboratory, I felt, perhaps
naively, that it would be better not to get into products competitive
with Hewlett-Packard. So we got started off in a completely new product
area, that of phase measurement of microwave signals. But Hewlett-Packard
wasted no time jumping full force into this new area. They had two
motivations: one, to compete vigorously with our offshoot company
and secondly, since their engineers were short of new product ideas,
they took their ideas where they could find them. A simple way to
describe phase measurement is to reflect that microwave frequencies
are in essence sine waves, the same sine wave that your normal house
electricity has. Notice the waveform first going up with respect to
a reference, then going down. Your house electricity goes positive
and negative this way 60 times a second. That seems pretty fast, but
imagine the typical microwave frequencies we were working with where
this up and down excursion occurs ten billion times a
second, and much higher. At these high frequencies, by measuring phase
you could relate to a distance measurement of one ten-thousandth of
an inch, or time measurement of a hundredth of a nanosecond, a nanosecond
being a billionth of a second. The microwave frequency signals we
were measuring were in the range where you propagate them always through
air at the speed of light. For the .01° phase resolution we had,
the signal would have progressed only about four ten-thousandths of
an inch. I am still amazed that the state of the art should permit
such fine measurements.
These instruments have a lot of scientific applications but, as usual
for microwave frequency, the initial big application was for the military.
The military used phase information to pinpoint enemy radars and to
make its phase array radars, which is what it must depend upon for
anti-ballistic missile protection.
Ever since WWII the military has pushed to higher and higher frequency
ranges. All its pioneering in microwave frequencies laid the groundwork
for the explosion in satellite communications, which happened as if
WILTRONs first products were reasonably general purpose but
were mainly used by the big companies involved in making military
products. The makers of radars were particularly important users of
our microwave sweepers and vector network analyzers. Our goal all
along, and one that we were successful in, was to develop instruments
also for the telecommunications commercial market.