New Courses

Emphasis continued, during the fifties, to shift from power oriented subjects to those involving higher and higher frequencies. Students since 1946 chose between the power and communications options and this division continued until 1967. The 1950 catalog lists five graduate level power courses but by 1958 only two were listed. In 1956 a total of fourteen graduate level courses were offered including Electromagnetic Waves, Pulse Techniques and Micro-wave Circuits. Also in 1956, “Transients” was taught using Laplace Transforms instead of Heaviside techniques. Most of these new offerings were initiated by Professor Libbey who had done summer work at MIT and Harvard and had taken, in 1950, what is thought to be the first sabbatical leave given by the Department.

The department experimented, in 1953, with a new course designed to give the student a broad overview of the field of communications. Each faculty member, under the leadership of Professor Creamer, developed one segment of the course and delivered the lecture or lectures related to the particular topic. The course description was ambitious and all encompassing.

Ee 21, Elements of Communication: Elements of speech and hearing; stereophonic sound; energy levels in speech and music; frequency ranges in speech and music; elements of image analysis and vision; stereoptic vision, colorimetry; visual and aural aspects of information transfer, and the generation and reconversion of electrical signal energies involved; coding and decoding of information; information theory; Hartley law; masking; noise; storage of information; communication channels for simultaneous or time-sharing transmission of signal energies; channel defects; bandwidth compression; amplitude compression and expansion.

As the course was taught, it was revised and by 1965 the description was: Ee 31, Characteristics of the auditory and vocal systems; elements of vision; colorimetry; basic information theory; physiological probability; coding and decoding of information; cybernetics; noise; storage of information; switching circuits; principles of feedback and automation.

The course was discontinued in the late sixties and many of the topics were covered in more detail in other courses as they were developed.

Total undergraduate offerings also increased to reflect the interests and expertise of new faculty. In particular the courses involving electronics were strengthened by Carl Blake, Carleton Brown and Howard MacFarland. Blake and MacFarland left after a few years but Brown stayed until his retirement in 1989 and led the departmental electronics effort during the rapid and revolutionary changes from the vacuum tube to the transistor. In 1962, “Electronics” first covered both vacuum tubes and transistors and by 1965 tubes were not mentioned in the course description. Other significant events of the fifties were the retirement of President Hauck in June 1957, the arrival of Lloyd Elliot as new president, completion of the physics building (to be named Bennett Hall) and the recognition by President Elliot in his report of 1958 that a new electrical engineering building was needed. Also in that same report he comments on the need for faculty to attend a two week training course in high-speed computing at MIT. “Since the nearest computer is in Boston, it is somewhat difficult to develop this work”. The first digital computer for campus wide use (IBM 1620) was installed in 1961. In 1965, the department offered an undergraduate course “Analog and Digital Computer Systems”. The first analog computer in the department was a Heathkit, built in the late fifties by faculty members who took parts of the kit to work on at home. It served well until replaced by two units manufactured by Electronic Associates, Inc. purchased when the department moved to Barrows Hall. Analog computation was taught until 1978.

Leadership of the department changed when Professor Creamer retired in 1961 and Ralph Armington was brought from Penn State to be department head. He wanted to revive interest in power and, to this end, in 1964 brought Professor Paul Shields from Penn State. An attempt was made to establish a special program for power utility people leading to a Certificate in Power System Engineering. Unfortunately, Northeastern University established a similar program at that time and Armington’s program was not successful. David Young joined the faculty in 1960 and in 1962 Edmund “Ned” Sheppard came as Associate Professor. Allison “Al” Whitney, who had graduated in 1962, was made an instructor in 1963. These three were to make important contributions to the development of the department. Young was involved in the development of the Technology program, Sheppard brought the first expertise in statistical communications theory and Whitney worked closely with Brown in the electronics sequence until he left in 1971 for a position in industry. Whitney was one of the first faculty to master the digital computer and teach it to other faculty. He returned in 1986 and has been the one primarily responsible for electronics since Brown retired.