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IEEE AESS 2012 Pioneer Award: Evolution of aerospace systems through advancements in electronic miniaturization and digital signal processing technologies

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1 Author(s)
Madni, A.M. ; BEI Technol. Inc., Los Angeles, CA, USA

The digital revolution of the late 1960s started to define architectures of next-generation aerospace systems. While extremely modest by today's standards, the advent of semiconductor memories, high speed and resolution analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), and microprocessors offered capabilities that were not possible to realize with analog systems alone. This coupled with electronic miniaturization and digital signal processing (DSP) techniques allowed systems to be smaller, smarter, and more reliable. Upon graduation from UCLA with my undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical sciences and engineering, I enthusiastically sought employment where I could use my education to advance my field in a significant way. While a graduate student, I taught electronics, electrical engineering, and control systems at Pacific States University, a private college in Los Angeles. My first real-world experience was derived by my employment at Pertec Corporation (Chatsworth, California) as an engineer in the development of computer peripherals that included tape transports, disc drives, and formatters. I extensively utilized the knowledge I had acquired in the classroom in the design of these systems; however, the most important education I received was the importance of designing systems for performance, quality, and price. While the job offered me numerous opportunities and I worked with an excellent team, I was hoping for more creative challenges. The opportunity arrived in 1975 when Systron Donner Corporation's Microwave Division (SDMD) offered me a position as a project engineer to develop the company's first spectrum analyzer with digital storage display. SDMD was one of three leading companies specializing in radio frequency (RF) and microwave components and instrumentation. The company's line of spectrum analyzers used the bulky, expensive analog storage tubes, which had severe limitations, including display flicker, poor reliability, and the inability to view mu- tiple waveforms simultaneously. I was promised a technician, a junior engineer, and an assembler who would be devoted solely to my project. Gullible as I was in those days, I believed in this support that I was going to receive only to realize shortly thereafter that due to "emergencies on other projects," I would be the lone warrior championing this project. In hindsight, I believe that this was the greatest learning experience of my life. Not only did I design the entire system, but I learned the value of proper soldering, circuit layout, interface between analog and digital circuits, and noise reduction techniques. The digital storage spectrum analyzer incorporated an 8-bit successive approximation ADC and eight of Intel's newly introduced 2101 (1K×1) random access memories to create a memory with 256×1024 resolution. This, together with DSP techniques, proved capable of processing the downconverted intermediate frequency from the RF/microwave tracking receiver to replace the bulky, expensive, and inefficient analog storage tube-based analyzer and provided, never before realized features, such as adaptive sweep, electronic frequency marker, electronic baseline clipper, simultaneous viewing of multiple waveforms, and other important features [1]. For its time, this contribution was considered seminal and resulted in three important patents for SD, with me as the sole inventor [2], [3], [4].

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:28 ,  Issue: 5 )