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Way Back When

On December 8, 1931, a patent was granted to AT&T scientists Lloyd Epenscheid and Herman Affel for a “concentric conducting system.”

However, self-taught engineer, Oliver Heaviside, patented what we now know as coaxial cable in England in 1880!

December Birthdays
Commodore Grace Hopper

Grace Brewster Hopper (née Murray; 9 December 1906 – 1 January 1992) was an American computer scientist, mathematician, and United States Navy rear admiral. She was a pioneer in computer programming and the first to devise the theory of machine-independent programming languages. Her FLOW-MATIC language was later extended to become COBOL a high-level programming language.

In 1947, while working on the Harvard Mark II computer, her colleagues discovered a moth stuck in a relay. The log sheet noted, “First actual case of bug being found.” While the term “bug” had been used for a malfunction in a variety of fields, she is credited with popularizing the term in computing.

Hopper's log with a moth taped on it.

Robert Norton Noyce (12 December 1927 – 3 June 1990), nicknamed “the Mayor of Silicon Valley,” co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel Corporation in 1968. He is also credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the development of the first integrated circuit or microchip which fueled the personal computer revolution and gave Silicon Valley its name.



Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.


In 1945, his landmark scholarly paper “Extra-Terrestrial Relays—Can Rocket Stations Give World-wide Radio Coverage?” in the British magazine Wireless World, set out the first principles of global communication via satellites placed in geostationary orbits.


In 1948, Clarke wrote the short story “The Sentinel.” Combined with ideas and elements from several other stories, the concept evolved into the novel and screenplay, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Joseph Henry (17 December 1797 – 13 May 1878) was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Joseph Henry independently discovered electromagnetic self-induction in 1831, however the credit goes to Michael Faraday for being first.

Joseph Henry’s pioneering work in electricity and magnetism helped bring about the invention of the telegraph, the electric motor, and the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell said, “But for Joseph Henry, I would never have gone ahead with the telephone.”

In 1893, Joseph Henry’s name was given to the standard electrical unit of inductive resistance, the “henry”.

Sir Joseph John Thomson (18 December 1856 – 30 August 1940) was an English physicist credited with the discovery and identification of the electron, and with the discovery of the first subatomic particle.

In 1897, he demonstrated that cathode rays were composed of previously unknown negatively charged particles (now called electrons), which he calculated must have bodies much smaller than atoms. Thomson received the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases.

Edwin Howard Armstrong (18 December 1890 – 31 January 1954) was an American electrical engineer and inventor. He has been called “the most prolific and influential inventor in radio history.” He invented the regenerative circuit while he was an undergraduate and patented it in 1914, followed by the super-regenerative circuit in 1922, and the superheterodyne receiver in 1918. Armstrong was also the inventor of modern frequency modulation (FM) radio transmission.

Rufus Paul Turner (25 December 1907 – 25 March 1982) was an academic, engineer, and author. In 1928, he became the first African-American to earn an Amateur Radio License. The Department of Commerce, which issued licenses then, assigned Turner the call sign W3LF. His station was licensed for 15 watts.

Working with Sylvania in the 1940s, Turner helped to develop the 1N34 germanium diode. And in 1949, he wrote “Build a Transistor” for Hugo Gernsback’s Radio-Electronics magazine at a time when transistors (aka “crystal triodes”) not only were cutting edge but not commercially available.

After three decades working with electronic devices—including developing the first practical transistor radio—he earned a doctorate in literature at age 52 and became an English professor. He wrote over 40 books and 3000 articles during his six-decade career.

Read more about Dr Turner on the ARRL website:

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