Edwin H. Armstrong
Sketch of Armstrong, c. 1954
|Died||February 1, 1954 63) (aged|
|Occupation||Electrical engineer, inventor|
|Known for||Radio engineering, including invention of FM radio|
(m. 1922;his death 1954)
|Awards|| IEEE Medal of Honor (1917)|
IEEE Edison Medal (1942)
Edwin Howard Armstrong (December 18, 1890– February 1, 1954 ) was an American electrical engineer and inventor, who developed FM (frequency modulation) radio and the superheterodyne receiver system. He held 42 patents and received numerous awards, including the first Medal of Honor awarded by the Institute of Radio Engineers (now IEEE), the French Legion of Honor, the 1941 Franklin Medal and the 1942 Edison Medal. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and included in the International Telecommunication Union's roster of great inventors.
An inventor is a person who creates or discovers a new method, form, device or other useful means that becomes known as an invention. The word inventor comes from the Latin verb invenire, invent-, to find. The system of patents was established to encourage inventors by granting limited-term, limited monopoly on inventions determined to be sufficiently novel, non-obvious, and useful. Although inventing is closely associated with science and engineering, inventors are not necessarily engineers nor scientists.
In telecommunications and signal processing, frequency modulation (FM) is the encoding of information in a carrier wave by varying the instantaneous frequency of the wave.
The IEEE Medal of Honor is the highest recognition of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It has been awarded since 1917, when its first recipient was Major Edwin H. Armstrong. It is given for an exceptional contribution or an extraordinary career in the IEEE fields of interest. The award consists of a gold medal, bronze replica, certificate and honorarium. The Medal of Honor may only be awarded to an individual.
Armstrong was born in the Chelsea district of New York City, the oldest of John and Emily (Smith) Armstrong's three children.His father began working at a young age at the American branch of the Oxford University Press, which published bibles and standard classical works, eventually advancing to the position of vice president. His parents first met at the North Presbyterian Church, located at 31st Street and Ninth Avenue. His mother's family had strong ties to Chelsea, and an active role in church functions. When the church moved north, the Smiths and Armstrongs followed, and in 1895 the Armstrong family moved from their brownstone row house at 347 West 29th Street to a similar house at 26 West 97th Street in the Upper West Side. The family was comfortably middle class.
Chelsea is a neighborhood on the West Side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. The district's boundaries are roughly 14th Street to the south, the Hudson River and West Street to the west, and Sixth Avenue to the east, with its northern boundary variously described as near the upper 20s or 34th Street, the next major crosstown street to the north. To the northwest of Chelsea is the neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen, as well as Hudson Yards; to the northeast are the Garment District and the remainder of Midtown South; to the east are NoMad and the Flatiron District; to the southwest is the Meatpacking District; and to the south and southeast are the West Village and the remainder of Greenwich Village. Chelsea is named after the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, England.
Oxford University Press (OUP) is the largest university press in the world, and the second oldest after Cambridge University Press. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the vice-chancellor known as the delegates of the press. They are headed by the secretary to the delegates, who serves as OUP's chief executive and as its major representative on other university bodies. Oxford University has used a similar system to oversee OUP since the 17th century. The Press is located on Walton Street, opposite Somerville College, in the suburb of Jericho.
The Upper West Side, sometimes abbreviated UWS, is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, bounded by Central Park and the Hudson River, and West 59th Street and West 110th Street.
At the age of eight, Armstrong contracted Sydenham's chorea (then known as St. Vitus' Dance), an infrequent but serious neurological disorder precipitated by rheumatic fever. For the rest of his life, Armstrong was afflicted with a physical tic exacerbated by excitement or stress. Due to this illness, he withdrew from public school and was home-tutored for two years.To improve his health, the Armstrong family moved to a house overlooking the Hudson River, at 1032 Warburton Avenue in Yonkers. The Smith family subsequently moved next door. Armstrong's tic and the time missed from school led him to become socially withdrawn.
Sydenham's chorea, also known as chorea minor and historically referred to as St Vitus' dance, is a disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet. Sydenham's chorea results from childhood infection with Group A beta-haemolytic Streptococcus and is reported to occur in 20–30% of people with acute rheumatic fever. The disease is usually latent, occurring up to 6 months after the acute infection, but may occasionally be the presenting symptom of rheumatic fever. Sydenham's chorea is more common in females than males and most below 16 years of age. Adult onset of Sydenham's chorea is comparatively rare and the majority of the adult cases are associated with exacerbation of chorea following childhood Sydenham's chorea.
A tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups. Tics can be invisible to the observer, such as abdominal tensing or toe crunching. Common motor and phonic tics are, respectively, eye blinking and throat clearing.
Yonkers is a city in Westchester County, New York. It is the fourth most populous city in the U.S. state of New York, behind New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester. The population of Yonkers was 195,976 as enumerated in the 2010 United States Census and is estimated to have increased by 2.5% to 200,807 in 2016. It is an inner suburb of New York City, directly to the north of the Bronx and approximately two miles (3 km) north of the northernmost point in Manhattan.
From an early age, Armstrong showed an interest in electrical and mechanical devices, particularly trains.He loved heights and constructed a makeshift backyard antenna tower that included a bosun's chair for hoisting himself up and down its length, to the concern of neighbors. Much of his early research was conducted in the attic of his parents’ house.
A bosun's chair is a device used to suspend a person from a rope to perform work aloft. Originally just a short plank or swath of heavy canvas, many modern bosun's chairs incorporate safety devices similar to those found in rock climbing harnesses such as safety clips and additional lines.
In 1909, Armstrong enrolled at Columbia University in New York City, where he became a member of the Epsilon Chapter of the Theta Xi engineering fraternity, and studied under Professor Michael Pupin at the Hartley Laboratories, a separate research unit at Columbia. Another of his instructors, Professor John H. Morecroft, later remembered Armstrong as being intensely focused on the topics that interested him, but somewhat indifferent to the rest of his studies.Armstrong challenged conventional wisdom and was quick to question the opinions of both professors and peers. In one case, he recounted how he tricked an instructor he disliked into receiving a severe electrical shock. He also stressed the practical over the theoretical, stating that progress was more likely the product of experimentation and reasoning than on mathematical calculation and the formulae of "mathematical physics".
Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City. Established in 1754 near the Upper West Side region of Manhattan, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.
Theta Xi (ΘΞ) is a North American Greek-letter social college fraternity. It was founded at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on April 29, 1864. Of all the social fraternities today, Theta Xi was the only one founded during the Civil War. Its Grand Lodge is headquartered in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. Since its inception, Theta Xi has grown to include more than 60,000 initiated members. Currently, there are approximately 50 active chapters, and 3 colonies. The Theta Xi Fraternity Chapter House at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin, Ph.D., LL.D., also known as Michael I. Pupin was a Serbian American physicist, physical chemist, philanthropist and patriot. Pupin is best known for his numerous patents, including a means of greatly extending the range of long-distance telephone communication by placing loading coils at predetermined intervals along the transmitting wire. Pupin was a founding member of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) on 3 March 1915, which later became NASA. In 1924, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography. Pupin was elected president or vice-president of the highest scientific and technical institutions, such as the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Radio Institute of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also a honorary consul of Serbia in the United States from 1912 to 1920 and played a role in determining the borders of newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Armstrong graduated from Columbia in 1913, earning an electrical engineering degree.
During World War I, Armstrong served in the Signal Corps as a captain and later a major.
Following college graduation, he received a $600 one-year appointment as a laboratory assistant at Columbia, after which he nominally worked as a research assistant, for a salary of $1 a year, under Professor Pupin.Unlike most engineers, Armstrong never became a corporate employee. He set up a self-financed independent research and development laboratory at Columbia, and owned his patents outright.
In 1934, he filled the vacancy left by John H. Morecroft's death, receiving an appointment as a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia, a position he held the remainder of his life.
Armstrong began working on his first major invention while still an undergraduate at Columbia. In late 1906, Lee de Forest had invented the three-element (triode) "grid Audion" vacuum-tube. How vacuum tubes worked was not understood at the time. De Forest's initial Audions did not have a high vacuum and developed a blue glow at modest plate voltages; De Forest improved the vacuum for Federal Telegraph.By 1912, vacuum tube operation was understood, and regenerative circuits using high vacuum tubes were appreciated.
While growing up, Armstrong had experimented with the early temperamental, "gassy" Audions. Spurred by the later discoveries, he developed a keen interest in gaining a detailed scientific understanding of how vacuum tubes worked. In conjunction with Professor Morecroft he used an oscillograph to conduct comprehensive studies.His breakthrough discovery was determining that employing positive feedback (also known as "regeneration") produced amplification hundreds of times greater than previously attained, with the amplified signals now strong enough so that receivers could use loudspeakers instead of headphones. Further investigation revealed that when the feedback was increased beyond a certain level a vacuum-tube would go into oscillation, thus could also be used as a continuous-wave radio transmitter.
Beginning in 1913 Armstrong prepared a series of comprehensive demonstrations and papers that carefully documented his research, U.S. Patent 1,113,149 was issued for his discovery. Although Lee de Forest initially discounted Armstrong's findings, beginning in 1915 de Forest filed a series of competing patent applications that largely copied Armstrong's claims, now stating that he had discovered regeneration first, based on August 6, 1912 notebook entry, while working for the Federal Telegraph company, prior to the January 31, 1913 date recognized for Armstrong. The result was an interference hearing at the patent office to determine priority. De Forest was not the only other inventor involved – the four competing claimants included Armstrong, de Forest, General Electric's Langmuir, and Alexander Meissner, who was a German national, which led to his application being seized by the Office of Alien Property Custodian during World War I.and in late 1913 applied for patent protection covering the regenerative circuit. On October 6, 1914,
Following the end of WWI Armstrong enlisted representation by the law firm of Pennie, Davis, Martin and Edmonds. To finance his legal expenses he began issuing non-transferable licenses for use of the regenerative patents to a select group of small radio equipment firms, and by November 1920 17 companies had been licensed.These licensees paid 5% royalties on their sales which were restricted to only "amateurs and experimenters". Meanwhile, Armstrong reviewed his options for selling the commercial rights to his work. Although the obvious candidate was the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), on October 5, 1920 the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company took out an option for $335,000 for the commercial rights for both the regenerative and superheterodyne patents, with an additional $200,000 to be paid if Armstrong prevailed in the regenerative patent dispute. Westinghouse exercised this option on November 4, 1920.
Legal proceedings related to the regeneration patent became separated into two groups of court cases. An initial court action was triggered in 1919 when Armstrong sued de Forest's company in district court, alleging infringement of patent 1,113,149. This court ruled in Armstrong's favor on May 17, 1921. A second line of court cases, the result of the patent office interference hearing, had a different outcome. The interference board had also sided with Armstrong, but he was unwilling to settle with de Forest for less than what he considered full compensation. Thus pressured, de Forest continued his legal defense, and appealed the interference board decision to the District of Columbia district court. On May 8, 1924, that court ruled that it was de Forest who should be considered regeneration's inventor. Armstrong (along with much of the engineering community) was shocked by these events, and his side appealed this decision. Although the legal proceeding twice went before the US Supreme Court, in 1928 and 1934, he was unsuccessful in overturning the decision.
In response to the second Supreme Court decision upholding de Forest as the inventor of regeneration, Armstrong attempted to return his 1917 IRE Medal of Honor, which had been awarded "in recognition of his work and publications dealing with the action of the oscillating and non-oscillating audion". The organization's board refused to allow him, and issued a statement that it "strongly affirms the original award".
The United States entered into WWI in April 1917. Later that year Armstrong was commissioned as a Captain in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and assigned to a laboratory in Paris, France to help develop radio communication for the Allied war effort. He returned to the US in the autumn of 1919, after being promoted to the rank of Major.(During both world wars, Armstrong gave the US military free use of his patents.)
During this period Armstrong's most significant accomplishment was the development of a "supersonic heterodyne" – soon shortened to "superheterodyne" – radio receiver circuit.This circuit made radio receivers more sensitive and selective and is extensively used today. The key feature of the superheterodyne approach is the mixing of the incoming radio signal with a locally generated, different frequency signal within a radio set. This circuit is called the mixer. The result is a fixed, unchanging intermediate frequency, or I.F. signal which is easily amplified and detected by following circuit stages. In 1919, Armstrong filed an application for a US patent of the superheterodyne circuit which was issued the next year. This patent was subsequently sold to Westinghouse. The patent was be challenged, triggering another patent office interference hearing. Armstrong ultimately lost this patent battle; although the outcome was less controversial than that involving the regeneration proceedings.
The challenger was Lucien Lévy of France who had worked developing Allied radio communication during WWI. He had been awarded French patents in 1917 and 1918 that covered some of the same basic ideas used in Armstrong's superheterodyne receiver. AT&T, interested in radio development at this time, primarily for point-to-point extensions of its wired telephone exchanges, purchased the US rights to Lévy's patent and contested Armstrong's grant. The subsequent court reviews continued until 1928, when the District of Columbia Court of Appeals disallowed all nine claims of Armstrong's patent, assigning priority for seven of the claims to Lévy, and one each to Ernst Alexanderson of General Electric and Burton W. Kendall of Bell Laboratories.
Although most early radio receivers used regeneration Armstrong approached RCA's David Sarnoff, whom he had known since giving a demonstration of his regeneration receiver in 1913, about the corporation offering superheterodynes as a superior offering to the general public.(The ongoing patent dispute was not a hindrance, because extensive cross-licensing agreements signed in 1920 and 1921 between RCA, Westinghouse and AT&T meant that Armstrong could freely use the Lévy patent.) Superheterodyne sets were initially thought to be prohibitively complicated and expensive as the initial designs required multiple tuning knobs and used nine vacuum tubes. In conjunction with RCA engineers, Armstrong developed a simpler, less costly design. RCA introduced its superheterodyne Radiola sets in the US market in early 1924, and they were an immediate success, dramatically increasing the corporation's profits. These sets were considered so valuable that RCA would not license the superheterodyne to other US companies until 1930.
The regeneration legal battle had one serendipitous outcome for Armstrong. While he was preparing apparatus to counteract a claim made by a patent attorney, he "accidentally ran into the phenomenon of super-regeneration", where, by rapidly "quenching" the vacuum-tube oscillations, he was able to achieve even greater levels of amplification. A year later, in 1922, Armstrong sold his super-regeneration patent to RCA for $200,000 plus 60,000 shares of corporation stock, which was later increased to 80,000 shares in payment for consulting services. This made Armstrong RCA's largest shareholder, and he noted that "The sale of that invention was to net me more than the sale of the regenerative circuit and the superheterodyne combined".RCA envisioned selling a line of super-regenerative receivers until superheterodyne sets could be perfected for general sales, but it turned out the circuit was not selective enough to make it practical for broadcast receivers.
"Static" interference – extraneous noises caused by sources such as thunderstorms and electrical equipment – bedeviled early radio communication using amplitude modulation and perplexed numerous inventors attempting to eliminate it. Many ideas for static elimination were investigated, with little success. In the mid-1920s, Armstrong began researching a solution. He initially, and unsuccessfully, attempted to resolve the problem by modifying the characteristics of AM transmissions.
One approach had been the use of frequency modulation (FM) transmissions. Instead of varying the strength of the carrier wave as with AM, the frequency of the carrier was changed to represent the desired audio signal. In 1922 John Renshaw Carson of AT&T, inventor of Single-sideband modulation (SSB), had published a detailed mathematical analysis which showed that FM transmissions did not provide any improvement over AM.Although the Carson bandwidth rule for FM is important today, this review turned out to be incomplete, because it analyzed only what is now known as "narrow-band" FM.
In early 1928 Armstrong began researching the capabilities of FM. Although there were others involved in FM research at this time, he knew of an RCA project to see if FM shortwave transmissions were less susceptible to fading than AM. In 1931 the RCA engineers constructed a successful FM shortwave link transmitting the Schmeling-Young StriblingStribling fight broadcast from California to Hawaii, and noted at the time that the signals seemed to be less affected by static. The project made little further progress.
Working in secret in the basement laboratory of Columbia's Philosophy Hall, Armstrong developed "wide-band" FM, in the process discovering significant advantages over the earlier "narrow-band" FM transmissions. In a "wide-band" FM system, the deviations of the carrier frequency are made to be much larger in magnitude than the frequency of the audio signal; this can be shown to provide better noise rejection. He was granted five US patents covering the basic features of new system on December 26, 1933.Initially, the primary claim was that his FM system was effective at filtering out the noise produced in receivers by vacuum tubes.
Armstrong had a standing agreement to give RCA the right of first refusal to his patents. In 1934 he presented his new system to RCA president Sarnoff. Sarnoff was somewhat taken aback by its complexity, as he had hoped it would be possible to eliminate static merely by adding a simple device to existing receivers. From May 1934 until October 1935 Armstrong conducted field tests of his FM technology from an RCA laboratory located on the 85th floor of the Empire State Building in New York City. An antenna attached to the building's spire transmitted signals for distances up to 80 miles (130 km). These tests helped demonstrate FM's static-reduction and high-fidelity capabilities. RCA, which was heavily invested in perfecting TV broadcasting, chose not to invest in FM, and instructed Armstrong to remove his equipment.
Denied the marketing and financial clout of RCA, Armstrong decided to finance his own development and form ties with smaller members of the radio industry, including Zenith and General Electric, to promote his invention. Armstrong thought that FM had the potential to replace AM stations within 5 years, which he promoted as a boost for the radio manufacturing industry, then suffering from the effects of the Great Depression. Making existing AM radio transmitters and receivers obsolete would necessitate that stations buy replacement transmitters and listeners purchase FM-capable receivers. In 1936 he published a landmark paper in the Proceedings of the IRE that documented the superior capabilities of using wide-band FM.(This paper would be reprinted in the August 1984 issue of Proceedings of the IEEE .) A year later, a paper by Murray G. Crosby (inventor of Crosby system for FM Stereo) in the same journal provided further analysis of the wide-band FM characteristics, and introduced the concept of "threshold", demonstrating that there is a superior signal-to-noise ratio when the signal is stronger than a certain level.
In June 1936, Armstrong gave a formal presentation of his new system at the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) headquarters. For comparison, he played a jazz record using a conventional AM radio, then switched to an FM transmission. A United Press correspondent was present, and recounted in a wire service report that: "if the audience of 500 engineers had shut their eyes they would have believed the jazz band was in the same room. There were no extraneous sounds." Moreover, "Several engineers said after the demonstration that they consider Dr. Armstrong's invention one of the most important radio developments since the first earphone crystal sets were introduced." Armstrong was quoted as saying he could "visualize a time not far distant when the use of ultra-high frequency wave bands will play the leading role in all broadcasting", although the article noted that "A switchover to the ultra-high frequency system would mean the junking of present broadcasting equipment and present receivers in homes, eventually causing the expenditure of billions of dollars."
In the late 1930s, as technical advances made it possible to transmit on higher frequencies, the FCC investigated options for increasing the number of broadcasting stations, in addition to ideas for better audio quality, known as "high-fidelity". In 1937 it introduced what became known as the Apex band, consisting of 75 broadcasting frequencies from 41.02 to 43.98 MHz. As on the standard broadcast band these were AM stations, but with higher quality audio – in one example, a frequency response from 20 Hz to 17,000 Hz +/- 1 dB – because station separations were 40 kHz instead of the 10 kHz spacings used on the original AM band. Armstrong worked to convince the FCC that a band of FM broadcasting stations would be a superior approach. That year he financed the construction of the first FM radio station, W2XMN (later KE2XCC) at Alpine, New Jersey. FCC engineers had believed that transmissions using high frequencies would travel little farther than line-of-sight distances, limited by the horizon. When operating with 40 kilowatts on 42.8 MHz, the station could be clearly heard 100 miles (160 km) away, matching the daytime coverage of a full power 50-kilowatt AM station.
FCC studies comparing the Apex station transmissions with Armstrong's FM system concluded that his approach was superior. In early 1940, the FCC held hearings on whether to establish a commercial FM service. Following this review, the FCC announced the establishment of an FM band effective January 1, 1941, consisting of forty 200 kHz-wide channels on a band from 42-50 MHz, with the first five channels reserved for educational stations. Existing Apex stations were notified that they would not be allowed to operate after January 1, 1941 unless they converted to FM.
Although there was interest in the new FM band by station owners, construction restrictions that went into place during WWII limited the growth of the new service. Following the end of WWII, the FCC moved to standardize its frequency allocations. One area of concern was the effects of tropospheric and Sporadic E propagation, which at times reflected station signals over great distances, causing mutual interference. A particularly controversial proposal, spearheaded by RCA, was that the FM band needed to be shifted to higher frequencies to avoid this problem. This reassignment was fiercely opposed as unneeded by Armstrong, but he lost. The FCC made its decision final on June 27, 1945. MHz, and assigned the former FM band to 'non government fixed and mobile' (42–44 MHz), and television channel 1 (44–50 MHz), now sidestepping the interference concerns. A period of allowing existing FM stations to broadcast on both low and high bands ended at midnight on January 8, 1949, at which time any low band transmitters were shut down, making obsolete 395,000 receivers that had already been purchased by the public for the original band. Although converters allowing low band FM sets to receive high band were manufactured, they ultimately proved to be complicated to install, and often as (or more) expensive than buying a new high band set outright.It allocated 100 FM channels from 88–108
Armstrong felt the FM band reassignment had been inspired primarily by a desire to cause a disruption that would limit FM's ability to challenge the existing radio industry, including RCA's AM radio properties that included the NBC radio network, plus the other major networks including CBS, ABC and Mutual. The change was thought to have been favored by AT&T, as the elimination of FM relaying stations would require radio stations to lease wired links from that company. Particularly galling was the FCC assignment of TV channel 1 to the 44-50 MHz segment of the old FM band. Channel 1 was later deleted, since periodic radio propagation would make local TV signals unviewable.
Although the FM band shift was an economic setback, there was reason for optimism. A book published in 1946 by Charles A. Siepmann heralded FM stations as "Radio's Second Chance".In late 1945, Armstrong contracted with John Orr Young, founding member of the public relations firm Young & Rubicam, to conduct a national campaign promoting FM broadcasting, especially by educational institutions. Article placements promoting both Armstrong personally and FM were made with general circulation publications including The Nation , Fortune , The New York Times , Atlantic Monthly , and The Saturday Evening Post .
In 1940, RCA offered Armstrong $1,000,000 for a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use his FM patents. He refused this offer, because he felt this would be unfair to the other licensed companies, which had to pay 2% royalties on their sales. Over time this impasse with RCA dominated Armstrong's life. RCA countered by conducting its own FM research, eventually developing what it claimed was a non-infringing FM system. The corporation encouraged other companies to stop paying royalties to Armstrong. Outraged by this, in 1948 Armstrong filed suit against RCA and the National Broadcasting Company, accusing them of patent infringement and that they had "deliberately set out to oppose and impair the value" of his invention, for which he requested treble damages. Although he was confident that this suit would be successful and result in a major monetary award, the protracted legal maneuvering that followed eventually began to impair his finances, especially after his primary patents expired in late 1950.
During World War II, Armstrong turned his attention to investigations of continuous wave FM Doppler radar funded by government contracts.The relative slowness of FM radar, compared with the AM pulse radar then in use, was offset by an enormous increment in range that became increasingly important with the advent of aircraft capable of traveling at supersonic speeds. Although the War ended before this technology could be applied, it subsequently became the method of choice. The first clear test of its utility in extremely long-range target detection was carried out on January 10, 1946, when the Army Signal Corps' Project Diana successfully reflected radar waves off the moon using a transmitter and receiver designed by Armstrong.
Bitter and overtaxed by years of litigation and mounting financial problems, Armstrong lashed out at his wife one day with a fireplace poker, striking her on the arm.She left their apartment to stay with her sister, Marjorie Tuttle, in Granby, Connecticut.
Sometime during the night of January 31–February 1, 1954, with his wife in Connecticut and three servants having left for the day, Armstrong removed the air conditioner from a window in his 12-room apartment on the 13th floor of River House in Manhattan, New York City, and jumped to his death.His body—fully clothed, with a hat, overcoat and gloves—was found in the morning on a third-floor balcony by a River House employee. The New York Times described the contents of his two-page suicide note to his wife: "he was heartbroken at being unable to see her once again, and expressing deep regret at having hurt her, the dearest thing in his life." The note concluded, "God keep you and Lord have mercy on my Soul." David Sarnoff disclaimed any responsibility, telling Carl Dreher directly that "I did not kill Armstrong." After his death, a friend of Armstrong estimated that 90 percent of his time was spent on litigation against RCA. U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) reported that Armstrong had recently met with one of his investigators, and had been "mortally afraid" that secret radar discoveries by him and other scientists "were being fed to the Communists as fast as they could be developed". Armstrong was buried in Locust Grove Cemetery, Merrimac, Massachusetts.
Following her husband's death, Marion Armstrong took charge of pursuing his estate's legal cases. In late December 1954, it was announced that through arbitration a settlement of "approximately $1,000,000" had been made with RCA. Dana Raymond of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York served as counsel in that litigation. Marion Armstrong was able to formally establish Armstrong as the inventor of FM following protracted court proceedings over five of his basic FM patents,with a series of successful suits, which lasted until 1967, against other companies that were found guilty of infringement.
It was not until the 1960s that FM stations in the United States started to challenge the popularity of the AM band, helped by the development of FM stereo by General Electric, followed by the FCC's FM Non-Duplication Rule, which limited large-city broadcasters with AM and FM licenses to simulcasting on those two frequencies for only half of their broadcast hours. Armstrong's FM system was also used for communications between NASA and the Apollo program astronauts. (He is of no known relation to Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong.)
Armstrong has been called "the most prolific and influential inventor in radio history".The superheterodyne process is still extensively used by radio equipment. Eighty years after its invention, FM technology has started to be supplemented, and in some cases replaced, by more efficient digital technologies. The introduction of digital television eliminated the FM audio channel that had been used by analog television, HD Radio has added digital sub-channels to FM band stations, and, in Europe and Pacific Asia, Digital Audio Broadcasting bands have been created that will, in some cases, eliminate existing FM stations altogether. However, FM broadcasting is still used internationally, and remains the dominant system employed for audio broadcasting services.
In 1923, combining his love for high places with courtship rituals, Armstrong climbed the WJZ (now WABC) antenna located atop a 20-story building in New York City, where he reportedly did a handstand, and when a witness asked him what motivated him to "do these damnfool things", Armstrong replied "I do it because the spirit moves me."Armstrong had arranged to have photographs taken, which he had delivered to David Sarnoff's secretary, Marion MacInnis. Armstrong and MacInnis married later that year. Armstrong bought a Hispano-Suiza motor car before the wedding, which he kept until his death, and which he drove to Palm Beach, Florida for their honeymoon. A publicity photograph was made of him presenting Marion with the world's first portable superheterodyne radio as a wedding gift.
He was an avid tennis player until an injury in 1940, and drank an Old Fashioned with dinner.Politically, he was described by one of his associates as "a revolutionist only in technology – in politics he was one of the most conservative of men."
In 1955, Marion Armstrong founded the Armstrong Memorial Research Foundation, and participated in its work until her death in 1979 at the age of 81. She was survived by two nephews and a niece.
Among Armstrong's living descendants are Steven McGrath, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, formerly energy advisor to Maine's Governor, and Adam Brecht, a media executive in New York City, whose paternal great-grandfather, John Frank MacInnis, was the brother of Marion Armstrong. Edwin Howard Armstrong's niece, Jeanne Hammond, who represented the family in the Ken Burns documentary "Empire of the Air", died on May 1, 2019 in Scarborough, Maine. Ms. Hammond worked in her uncle's radio laboratory at Columbia University for several years following her graduation from Wellesley College in 1943.
In 1917, Armstrong was the first recipient of the IRE's (now IEEE) Medal of Honor.
For his wartime work on radio, the French government gave him the Legion of Honor in 1919.He was awarded the 1941 Franklin Medal, and in 1942 received the AIEEs Edison Medal "for distinguished contributions to the art of electric communication, notably the regenerative circuit, the superheterodyne, and frequency modulation." The ITU added him to its roster of great inventors of electricity in 1955.
He later received two honorary doctorates, from Columbia in 1929, and Muhlenberg College in 1941.
In 1980, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in 1983. The Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame inducted him in 2000, "in recognition of his contributions and pioneering spirit that have laid the foundation for consumer electronics." Columbia University established the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professorship in the School of Engineering and Applied Science in his memory.
Philosophy Hall, the Columbia building where Armstrong developed FM, was declared a National Historic Landmark. Armstrong's boyhood home in Yonkers, New York was recognized by the National Historic Landmark program and the National Register of Historic Places, although this was withdrawn when the house was demolished.
Armstrong Hall at Columbia was named in his honor. The hall, located at the northeast corner of Broadway and 112th Street, was originally an apartment house but was converted to research space after being purchased by the university. It is currently home to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a research institute dedicated to atmospheric and climate science that is jointly operated by Columbia and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A storefront in a corner of the building houses Tom's Restaurant, a longtime neighborhood fixture that inspired Susanne Vega's song "Tom's Diner" and was used for establishing shots for the fictional "Monk's diner" in the "Seinfeld" television series.
A second Armstrong Hall, also named for the inventor, is located at the United States Army Communications and Electronics Life Cycle Management Command (CECOM-LCMC) Headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
E. H. Armstrong patents:
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Database Search
Maj. Edwin H. Armstrong, whose inventions provided much of the basis for modern broadcasting, was found dead yesterday morning on a third-floor balcony of River House, 435 East Fifty-second Street. The 63-year-old electrical engineer had plunged from a window of his luxurious thirteenth-floor apartment, apparently late Sunday evening or during the night.
The appointment of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong as Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University yesterday by Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, president of the university.
His health began to suffer and his behavior grew erratic. On one occasion he came to believe that someone had poisoned his food and insisted on having his stomach pumped. On another, his wife fled the house as Armstrong lashed out with a fireplace poker.
After he penned the last sentence, "God keep you and the Lord have mercy on my soul," he put on his overcoat, hat and gloves and stepped out of a window thirteen stories above the ground.
the fm patent suit brought against RCA-NBC some years ago by the late Maj. Edwin H. Armstrong has been settled for approximately $1 million.
Esther Marion Armstrong, the wife of the late Maj. Edwin Howard Armstrong, a leading American inventor, died Wednesday at the Exeter (N.H.) Hospital, after a brief illness. She was 81 years old and lived in Rye Beach, N.H.
The early history of radio is the history of technology that produces and uses radio instruments that use radio waves. Within the timeline of radio, many people contributed theory and inventions in what became radio. Radio development began as "wireless telegraphy". Later radio history increasingly involves matters of broadcasting.
A superheterodyne receiver, often shortened to superhet, is a type of radio receiver that uses frequency mixing to convert a received signal to a fixed intermediate frequency (IF) which can be more conveniently processed than the original carrier frequency. It was invented by US engineer Edwin Armstrong in 1918 during World War I. Virtually all modern radio receivers use the superheterodyne principle.
In electronics and telecommunications a transmitter or radio transmitter is an electronic device which produces radio waves with an antenna. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating current, the antenna radiates radio waves.
In communications and electronic engineering, an intermediate frequency (IF) is a frequency to which a carrier wave is shifted as an intermediate step in transmission or reception. The intermediate frequency is created by mixing the carrier signal with a local oscillator signal in a process called heterodyning, resulting in a signal at the difference or beat frequency. Intermediate frequencies are used in superheterodyne radio receivers, in which an incoming signal is shifted to an IF for amplification before final detection is done.
AM broadcasting is a radio broadcasting technology, which employs amplitude modulation (AM) transmissions. It was the first method developed for making audio radio transmissions, and is still used worldwide, primarily for medium wave transmissions, but also on the longwave and shortwave radio bands.
Lee de Forest was an American inventor, self-described "Father of Radio", and a pioneer in the development of sound-on-film recording used for motion pictures. He had over 180 patents, but also a tumultuous career—he boasted that he made, then lost, four fortunes. He was also involved in several major patent lawsuits, spent a substantial part of his income on legal bills, and was even tried for mail fraud. His most famous invention, in 1906, was the three-element "Audion" (triode) vacuum tube, the first practical amplification device. Although De Forest had only a limited understanding of how it worked, it was the foundation of the field of electronics, making possible radio broadcasting, long distance telephone lines, and talking motion pictures, among countless other applications.
The Audion was an electronic detecting or amplifying vacuum tube invented by American electrical engineer Lee de Forest in 1906. It was the first triode, consisting of an evacuated glass tube containing three electrodes: a heated filament, a grid, and a plate. It is important in the history of technology because it was the first widely used electronic device which could amplify; a small electrical signal applied to the grid could control a larger current flowing from the filament to plate.
A regenerative circuit is an amplifier circuit that employs positive feedback. Some of the output of the amplifying device is applied back to its input so as to add to the input signal, increasing the amplification. One example is the Schmitt trigger, but the most common use of the term is in RF amplifiers, and especially regenerative receivers, to greatly increase the gain of a single amplifier stage.
A tuned radio frequency receiver is a type of radio receiver that is composed of one or more tuned radio frequency (RF) amplifier stages followed by a detector (demodulator) circuit to extract the audio signal and usually an audio frequency amplifier. This type of receiver was popular in the 1920s. Early examples could be tedious to operate because when tuning in a station each stage had to be individually adjusted to the station's frequency, but later models had ganged tuning, the tuning mechanisms of all stages being linked together, and operated by just one control knob. By the mid 1930s, it was replaced by the superheterodyne receiver patented by Edwin Armstrong.
In radio communications, a radio receiver, also known as a receiver, wireless or simply radio is an electronic device that receives radio waves and converts the information carried by them to a usable form. It is used with an antenna. The antenna intercepts radio waves and converts them to tiny alternating currents which are applied to the receiver, and the receiver extracts the desired information. The receiver uses electronic filters to separate the desired radio frequency signal from all the other signals picked up by the antenna, an electronic amplifier to increase the power of the signal for further processing, and finally recovers the desired information through demodulation.
FM broadcasting is a method of radio broadcasting using frequency modulation (FM) technology. Invented in 1933 by American engineer Edwin Armstrong, wide-band FM is used worldwide to provide high-fidelity sound over broadcast radio. FM broadcasting is capable of better sound quality than DAB/+ radio, and AM broadcasting under normal listening conditions, so it is used for most music broadcasts. Theoretically wideband AM can offer equally good sound quality, provided the reception conditions are ideal. FM radio stations use the VHF frequencies. The term "FM band" describes the frequency band in a given country which is dedicated to FM broadcasting.
The Neutrodyne radio receiver, invented in 1922 by Louis Hazeltine, was a particular type of tuned radio frequency (TRF) receiver, in which the instability-causing inter-electrode capacitance of the triode RF tubes is cancelled out or "neutralized". to prevent parasitic oscillations which caused "squealing" or "howling" noises in the speakers of early radio sets. In most designs, a small extra winding on each of the RF amplifiers' tuned anode coils was used to generate a small antiphase signal, which could be adjusted by special variable trim capacitors to cancel out the stray signal coupled to the grid via plate-to-grid capacitance. The Neutrodyne circuit was popular in radio receivers until the 1930s, when it was superseded by the superheterodyne receiver.
Radio receiver design includes the electronic design of different components of a radio receiver which processes the radio frequency signal from an antenna in order to produce usable information such as audio. The complexity of a modern receiver and the possible range of circuitry and methods employed are more generally covered in electronics and communications engineering. The term radio receiver is understood in this article to mean any device which is intended to receive a radio signal in order to generate useful information from the signal, most notably a recreation of the so-called baseband signal which modulated the radio signal at the time of transmission in a communications or broadcast system.
The autodyne circuit was an improvement to radio signal amplification using the De Forest Audion vacuum tube amplifier. By allowing the tube to oscillate at a frequency slightly different from the desired signal, the sensitivity over other receivers was greatly improved. The autodyne circuit was invented by Edwin Howard Armstrong of Columbia University, New York, NY. He inserted a tuned circuit in the output circuit of the Audion vacuum tube amplifier. By adjusting the tuning of this tuned circuit, Armstrong was able to dramatically increase the gain of the Audion amplifier. Further increase in tuning resulted in the Audion amplifier reaching self-oscillation.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to radio:
An audion receiver makes use of a single vacuum tube or transistor to detect and amplify signals. It is so called because it originally used the audion tube as the active element. Unlike a crystal detector or Fleming valve detector, the audion provided amplification of the signal as well as detection. The audion was invented by Lee De Forest.
Esther Marion Armstrong was the widow of FM radio inventor Edwin Howard Armstrong. She is notable for continuing — and winning — her husband's patent lawsuits against some of America's largest electronics manufacturers after his suicide. In 13 years of litigation, she was victorious in every battle over her husband's patents, winning financial settlements that restored her vast wealth. In her final years she established awards and took other steps to honor her husband's accomplishments.
Lucien Lévy was a French radio engineer and radio receiver manufacturer. He invented the superheterodyne method of amplifying radio signals, used in almost all AM radio receivers. His patent claim was at first disallowed in the United States in favour of the American Edwin Howard Armstrong, but on appeal Lévy's claim as inventor was accepted in the US.
In electronics, a Q multiplier is a circuit added to a radio receiver to improve its selectivity and sensitivity. It is a regenerative amplifier adjusted to provide positive feedback within the receiver. This has the effect of narrowing the receiver's bandwidth, as if the Q factor of its tuned circuits had been increased. The Q multiplier was a common accessory in shortwave receivers of the vacuum tube era as either a factory installation or an add-on device. In use, the Q multiplier had to be adjusted to a point just short of oscillation to provide maximum sensitivity and rejection of interfering signals.
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