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The development of the quartz crystal oscillator industry of World War II

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1 Author(s)
Thompson, R.J., Jr. ; Dept. of Phys., McMurry Univ., Abilene, TX, USA

This paper offers a history of a critical episode in military and electronics history-the difficult creation of quartz crystal frequency control units for radio communications during World War II. As a means of controlling the frequencies of radio transmitters and receivers, amateur radio hobbyists quickly accepted the quartz crystal oscillator after its initial development in the late 1920s. The military, however, declined to adopt this technology until just prior to World War II. Due to the small market for crystal oscillators, no mass production industry had ever developed to produce this extremely high precision electronic component. As war engulfed the nation, the U.S. Army Signal Corps found itself in the dangerous position of having gambled the integrity of its communications equipment on a component that could not possibly be produced in the quantities immediately needed. This paper looks at the challenges the United States faced in building a crystal manufacturing capability and in supplying this industry with sufficient supplies of raw quartz. A fairly specialized component of communications technology emerged from spare beginnings in prewar amateur radio to become the very foundation of a wide range of electronic devices today.

Published in:

Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:52 ,  Issue: 5 )