They Call Me Theodore

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Riblet decided he wanted to start a company, and he asked me if I would work with him, which I did. At the same time that we were doing that, Raytheon had purchased the Submarine Signal Company.

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There was no traumatic situation whereby we were taking out the nucleus of their microwave capability because Raytheon had a very extensive microwave capability. I worked at Microwave Development Laboratories with him for about four years, and we were successful.

The company is still in existence, it's still successful, and it's still owned by Dr. I left him after about four years, and I went up to Sylvania for a little over a year, working on microwave diodes. I tried to get away from doing the same things that I had done in these other places when I started my own company. There are various media that you can use to work with in microwaves. I had up until that point worked almost exclusively in waveguides , although I would sometimes work on coaxial line components.

When I started my own company, I determined that I didn't want to compete directly with my previous employer, the Microwave Development Lab — so I decided I would begin to work in coaxial lines and other related media. We've been doing that ever since. So today, we sell to Microwave Development Laboratories, and we buy from them. In fact, what you'll find about the microwave industry, it's very incestuous.

You sell to people, and you buy from people, and then you compete with them. And we're all friends. They were dim because we didn't know where we were going. But the largest portion of the Rad Lab were primarily top-notch physicists who had been taken from different companies and different schools in order to form the Radiation Laboratory. When the war was over, many of them just went back to their prior responsibilities.

But there were those of us, like myself and others, who had come out of school and didn't have any prior experience, or had left a company to come to work for the Radiation Laboratory. We didn't have that aura about us that a DuBridge or a Getting or somebody like that would have. So the net result was there were a number of us who were looking for work. I don't know what proportion that might have been. It might have been a third of them, or it might have been half of them.

No, I'm talking about the whole Laboratory. Within the microwave part there might have been a thousand who were focused in my area.


After Rad Lab, some of them got out of microwaves, but a good number of them continued in the microwave field. I'm getting the impression that there wasn't tremendous industry interest in microwaves immediately after the war. Some of your colleagues at the Rad Lab got out of microwaves. Was that a decision based on their preferences or simply a lack of jobs? Some of them wanted to get out, and some of them wanted to stay in the field, but couldn't.

I remember two of my friends who were microwave engineers who decided to set up a company. They set it up in Cambridge in Massachusetts to make geiger counters. Atomic energy was the big thing. When the war ended Time Magazine had planned to do a special issue on microwaves. When they dropped the atomic bomb, it was the feature of the issue, and microwaves and radar were hardly mentioned. It was mentioned, but somewhere in the back pages. So a lot of people got caught up in the atomic side of it.

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This one group actually started a company and for a long while they couldn't get any business. They called themselves Tracer Lab. It became a fairly successful company, but they eventually went in all different directions. The company stayed in the Boston area, but they were no longer involved. Well, there were a number of things that happened. For example, they started Air Force Cambridge Research Center in the Boston area, which was an outgrowth of some of the activities that were going on. It was really an Army facility, but a lot of the Rad Lab people went there.

Yes, these were military. Lincoln Laboratories was started not too long after that.

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So a number of things started. Some people took them and some people didn't. There were opportunities that were presented to us, but primarily in military or government facilities. But I do remember that when I had that chance to go to Submarine Signal Company, I figured, I wouldn't have far to travel because it was in the center of Boston, not too far from where the famous Brinks Robbery took place.

I enjoyed that job at Submarine Signal Company. You say some of the older, more-established people had corporations to which they could return, but there was a class of younger people like yourself straight out of school. I'm wondering if there was any spirit of entrepreneurship, having worked on new technology. There was some. There were others. Which group at Rad Lab do you think was working with the most innovative technology? Which group was working on the technology that was of greatest interest to private industry?

I don't think you can break it up that way because you have to remember that we had different specialty groups. One group was the modulator group, another one was the receiver group, another one was the indicator group, another one was the microwave components group, another one was the antenna group. If you said which one of those groups, I'd say, well nobody would come in and say: I want to be in the microwave business because I think there's a lot of market for it.

But the groups that probably attracted the most attention would be the systems groups.

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For example, one of the great systems that was built during the war was the , and there were three major companies that were involved — Westinghouse, General Electric, and Chrysler. Chrysler built the trailer, and they built a lot of the mechanical structure. Now I suspect that they recognized the value there, and of course Westinghouse has been in the radar business ever since. They do an excellent job. Motorola was another one, and Motorola kept making radar systems after the war.

Raytheon continued to make tubes and other radar and microwave products after the war. After the war Sylvania continued to make microwave diodes and some of the associated component parts that went into radar systems. There were other companies: Philco, which no longer exists, made a lot of things. They were in the microwave diode business, and they made some systems. So there were a number of companies that continued. Bell Laboratories, of course, although they didn't need the Radiation Lab to do the things they were doing, nevertheless had a close tie.

They continued making radar systems.

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After the war they were the microwave creative talent. They still have it, but I don't think it functions quite as it did in those days. The Bell Laboratories and the work they did was just absolutely tremendous. Can you recall the circumstances by which any of these companies became involved in Rad Lab contracting? I mentioned Raytheon earlier. Raytheon was actually manufacturing tubes for the Radiation Lab.

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They would have people who would come over to the Rad Lab, and people from Rad Lab would go over to Raytheon and work with them on tubes. There was a constant exchange going back and forth. The people from General Electric and Westinghouse would come up to the Rad Lab and get the designs for the , and then they would go back and do their own modifications of those designs. I imagine there was. I was not privy to that information.

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