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For the sixth time since its conception, the MTT-S International Microwave Symposium (IMS) will be held in Boston, historically one of the most popular venues for the event based on attendance numbers. This year, Microwave Journal has invited the past steering committee chairpersons to reflect on their experiences with organizing these colossal events. Ted Saad (1967), Harlan Howe (1983), Peter Staecker (1991), Glenn Thoren (2000) and Fred Schindler (2009) graciously accepted our invitation to share their stories with our readers. The following are their impressions of shows past and present.
Ted Saad, Chairman, 1967 MTT-S Boston Symposium
For many IEEE members, the name Ted Saad is synonymous with the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S) and the IMS. Saad’s early and invaluable involvement with the society helped make it the strong and vibrant organization that it is today. The MTT-S started off as a Professional Group within the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) back in March, 1952, and held its first symposium in New York City in November of that year. Saad became a member of the group’s Administration Committee (AdCom) in its second year of existence and by 1958 he was the chairman. Saad also served as the symposium chair when the G-MTT was held in Boston in 1967 for the second time (the first time was in 1959).
In a recent conversation with Saad regarding his chairing the 1967 Boston symposium, he fondly reminisced about his days as an active member of the society and his participation in MIT’s Rad Lab during World War II. He proudly referred us to his 1983 IEEE Transactions article, “MTT the Early Days,” remarking that upon re-reading it, he felt many warm memories. Saad’s article is full of references to the people who formed the society, worked on publishing and editing the Transactions periodical and organized the symposia. It was clear in our conversation that the “warm memories” stem from his connection to these people, a reminder that the society is about more than just technology. Talking with Saad reminds us that the IMS is that time of year when the community comes together, personal bonds are made or re-established and one finds that they are surrounded by like-minded people who know what VSWR means.
In 1967, the symposium was strictly a technical gathering, held without an industry-based exhibition. This presented certain challenges for the organizers. In his 1983 IEEE Transactions article on the MTT Symposia, Saad wrote, “Again, following along in the Palo Alto example, an attempt was made to solicit funds from various government agencies to defray the cost of the visiting foreign attendees. Unfortunately, the agencies refused to provide funding and at the last minute, some local area microwave companies helped finance expenses for visitors coming from Japan and Western Europe.”
In a companion article that same year on the early days of the MTT, Saad wrote, “The MTT had always been unique with regard to (not) having exhibits at their annual Symposia. But back in the mid-1960s, when finances were getting tight, there was some discussion as to the possibility of having paid exhibits at the Symposia to help defray expenses. The discussion was carried on at many AdCom meetings, and initially there was great opposition. I was one of those who initially opposed the idea, concerned that the Symposia would lose some of their flavor and become industry/sales oriented. Finally, however, the vote was taken to have the exhibits, which started modestly in 1972 in Arlington Heights, outside Chicago. As it turned out, they have proven to be very profitable for the Society, but there is no question that it has altered the tone of the Symposia. The fact remains, however, that the Symposium is the highlight of the Society year and perhaps, with exhibits, the industry year.”
Noted highlights from the 1967 Boston symposium included the banquet, which featured Professor John C. Slater, who, at the time, was with the University of Florida, speaking of his days at MIT and at the MIT Radiation Laboratory and the early days of microwaves. Also of note during the banquet was the presentation of the Morris E. Leeds Award to Bill Mumford, the AdCom’s third Chairman (1954-1955). That year Boston set a record for attendance at 794, which held until 1977 in San Diego, CA. Saad wrote the following preview of the 1967 symposium in an editorial for Microwave Journal in May 1967.
“This year the G-MTT Symposium is being held in Boston. Since I was involved in the preparation of the technical program I had a close view of the technical activity in the industry.
Because of the many fine papers that had to be evaluated, the symposium will once again last four full days. 109 papers were submitted for consideration, 9 more were invited. This compares with 93 papers submitted for consideration and 16 invited last year.
Judging from the program that has resulted, the industry is active in a number of interesting areas. The list of papers provides a good measure of the technical trends taking place. For example, in addition to the session on waveguides, the session on filters and couplers and two sessions on ferrites, there are sessions on microwave integrated circuits, solid-state sources, microwave control devices and microwave delay lines. One mild surprise was the large number of ferrite papers. The activity in ferrites seems greater than ever. Recently it has even begun to invade the field of integrated circuits.
The two areas that seem to be of greatest interest and importance to the industry are still solid-state sources and microwave integrated circuits. To satisfy that interest, the first evening of the symposium will be devoted to a rump session on microwave sources in parallel with a tutorial session on microwave integrated circuits. Audience participation at both sessions will be a feature. It is hoped that attendees with late information will take the opportunity to present their material at that time.
It is difficult to measure the changes in the technology by comparing this year’s program with last year’s. The changes are too gradual. For a better gauge of the changes I went back to the 1959 symposium which was also held in Boston (Editor’s note: A three-day event held at Harvard University). Then as now, one of the most important topics of discussion was ferrites. In addition there was great interest in masers and variable reactance devices. At the time, I’m sure we thought the direction of the technology was obvious.
One thing that seems apparent today is that in 1959 the technology was narrower. Many of the problems that faced us then have been solved. The results have been applied to give us new tools and capabilities which have in effect broadened today’s technological base.
The 1959 program seems somewhat un-inspirational in retrospect. But while we beat our chests with pride for many of our achievements we must remember that the 1975 symposium attendees in Boston (Editor’s note: The 1975 symposium venue was re-located to Palo Alto, CA, and did not return to Boston until 1983) will probably look back at the 1967 program and think it even dull.
One of the special bonuses the attendees will receive this year will be the invigorating walk between the Statler Hilton Hotel, the official hotel of the symposium and the New England Mutual Hall, where the papers will be presented. If nothing else is achieved, this may be the healthiest symposium in our history.”
Harlan Howe, Jr., Chairman, 1983 MTT-S Boston Symposium
The 1983 MTT-S International Microwave Symposium, held in Boston, broke all existing records and generated a number of “firsts”. Total attendance was 5168 with 1523 people registered for the main symposium and additional registrants for the Microwave and Millimeter-wave Monolithic Circuit Symposium, the workshops and the ARFTG meeting for a total technical attendance of 2306. There were a total of 126 technical papers presented in three parallel sessions, which was a reduction from four sessions in order the let the attendees hear more of the papers. Two Open Forum sessions with 20 papers each were introduced for the first time. Those sessions were the responsibility of Peter Staecker. Staecker and the Technical Program Chairman, Ralph Levy, were determined that the quality of those papers be up to the standards of the other papers and that they be chosen to be appropriate for the format. Staecker and Levy vetoed the plan to have wine and cheese because they thought it would detract from the professionalism of the sessions. The introduction was a success and has been repeated ever since with significant expansion including industry-sponsored refreshments.
Another “first” was a full sized program instead of the previous pocket size. At that time, the employers of the committee members were much more supportive of the event than they are today. The program was created at no cost by the M/A-COM Publications Department, although MTT-S paid for printing and mailing. We also introduced the first hard cover digest instead of the paperback version. Unfortunately, there was also an unpleasant “first” to the digest. At the last minute, after it was printed, someone in the Navy decided that one of the papers contained classified information. A crew of volunteers (with security clearances) spent the weekend slicing pages out of the digest. Despite the strict requirement for written releases, several companies have reneged on their releases, claiming security issues, and this problem has been repeated two more times, most recently at the Phoenix meeting in 2000 where they also had to destroy and remake all the CD-ROMs.
In addition to the digest problem we had several other surprises. When we arrived on-site, we discovered that we were backed up to a Mary Kay Cosmetics show. They were occupying the area scheduled for our registration and refused to move. The Sheraton Hotel allowed us to set up registration in the lobby bar near the entrance to the exhibition hall. LRW Associates was responsible for registration at that time and they coped nicely with the change; however, it was crowded and we received a number of complaints. It turned out that Mary Kay wasn’t through with us. At midnight before the opening day, we discovered that there was a pink Cadillac hanging from the ceiling of the ballroom scheduled for our opening session the next morning. During a worrisome night, the car was removed and we opened without incident and without the pink decoration.
The Microwave Journal Reception, which had previously been a relatively small reception for exhibitors only, was opened to all attendees for the first time. Over 800 people attended an elegant event held at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, complete with live chamber music and lavish refreshments in honor of the Microwave Journal’s 25th anniversary.
The exhibition was very successful and broke records again. There were 243 exhibiting companies in 264 booths. It fit nicely on the first floor of the Hynes Convention Center, which was very convenient to the technical meetings. It was decided to keep the exhibition open until 9:00 p.m. one night to allow people who were too busy during the day or who couldn’t get away from work to attend. The experiment was a failure. At 7:00 p.m. the hall was empty except for unhappy exhibitors and we closed down. An evening extension has not been repeated.
For me, the highlight of the week was the Awards Banquet. Special Events Chairman, Joe White and I decided that we wanted a well-known speaker who could attract a large audience including families. Our prime candidate was Dr. Carl Sagan of Cornell University and television fame. However, his agent wouldn’t book him since he was returning from an overseas trip on that day. White went around the agent, contacted Dr. Sagan directly and convinced him that he should speak to us, since we were the people who developed the hardware that made radio astronomy possible. He agreed, changed his travel plans and returned through Boston instead of New York. All the credit for arranging his talk belongs to Joe White. I just paid the bill, which was more than we had ever spent for a speaker before and raised a few eyebrows at the MTT-S AdCom. However, he was worth every penny. His presentation was spectacular and afterward he stayed on stage to answer questions from the audience. The one that I shall never forget came from a young boy (Tatsuo Itoh’s son) who asked, “All the moons on the other planets have names. Why doesn’t our moon have a name?” Sagan replied that the other planets have multiple moons, so we give them names to distinguish them from one another. We only have one moon, so we simply call it “The Moon”. It was a memorable ending to a memorable evening and a memorable symposium.
Peter Staecker, Chairman, 1991 MTT-S Boston Symposium
Having done our site due diligence in hard hats in 1985, when the present Marriott, Westin and Hines Convention Center in Copley Place were still holes in the ground, we approached MTT’s AdCom meeting in St. Louis with the proposal for Boston 1991. Chuck Buntschuh had just given an updated forecast of the 1988 NYC Symposium in which room rates were projected to be $150, a figure that was met by groans from the audience. So the first question after our proposal was, “What are the hotel rates in Boston, Peter?” The answer, still a guess, was in excess of $160. The immediate response from Fred Rosenbaum: “Well, Chuck, you’re off the hook!”
And so it was an auspicious occasion in late 1990, when Don Lawrence, the legendary Sales Director at the Sheraton Boston, offered to reduce room rates. In the end, 1991 Boston again defined itself as the venue to beat as it topped all previous IMS performance statistics… with one exception: Attempting to surpass the attendance of the 1983 blow-out awards banquet featuring Carl Sagan, the Committee again engaged impresario Joe White, responsible for Sagan’s memorable appearance in Boston 1983, to repeat his magic. His target: Tom Clancy. The connection failed, and Sagan’s 1983 record still stands.
The major theme of IMS 1991, of course, was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the MIT Radiation Laboratory. As early as 1987 a small local RadLab Celebration Committee led by Ted Saad (who was in RadLab Group 71: Racons as a young engineer) started to identify and engage the RadLab alumni, and their response was exuberant. As plans developed, historical events took center stage:
Figure 1 584 Radar set up at Lincoln Labs for 1991 MTT-S.
At the Symposium, the cost of hotel rooms ranged from $95 to $140 (not so bad after all). On Tuesday, June 11, 1991, radar, the technical roots of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, and the people of the MIT Radiation Laboratory were the main event:
Glen Thoren, Chairman, 2000 MTT-S Boston Symposium
Do you remember the year 2000? The Internet bubble was still expanding and no one had yet seen the “wall” we were about to run into at full throttle. The NASDAQ was over 5000 in March and the Dow Jones was over 11,700 in January. It seems like yesterday. And so does MTT-S IMS 2000.
IMS 2000 really started seven years earlier, shortly after IMS 1991 in Boston. Boston won the bid to carry on the tradition of the IMS as it did in 1991 and in 1983 before that. As the Chairman in 2000, I previously served as a digest editor in 1983 and co-chairman of the technical program for the 1991 Boston symposia. But in 2000 it was the whole ball of wax. Our technology had changed remarkably over the years. That’s why we hold these events. We must stay up to date, get ahead of the curve and push out the edge of the state-of-the-art. A cliché, perhaps, and undeniably true. The Internet bubble was still expanding and the enthusiasm for RF and microwave technology was exceeded only by the photonic industries and the “dot com” world. It was a “heady” time.
Three things were remarkable about IMS 2000. It was the end of a century of technology and the beginning of a new one. Many of the early pioneers of our industry were still with us, attended the meeting, accepted our appreciation, allowed us to honor them, and let us know that now we had the responsibility to “carry on”. The attendance set a new record, as did the number of exhibitor booths (803), all the result of the Boston IMS Steering Committee’s unbelievable, and I think heroic, dedication and work. The team at Horizon House and Microwave Journal put in long hours organizing the exhibitors and exhibit floor so that all companies could showcase their new achievements. There were booths in the halls of the Hynes Convention Center because we had simply run out of exhibit space. The IMS was too large to fit in the largest conference center in Boston and it was getting larger.
I even had to lead a large delegation of workshop attendees on a last minute hike from the Hynes Convention Center to the Sheraton Hotel because of the huge interest in one workshop. It was a long walk and I felt like the Pied Piper apologizing for the inconvenience all the way. The workshop turned out very well so I was forgiven.
One of the most amazing operations that continued throughout the event was the “sign shop” manned by volunteers and under the control of Bob Alongi, the head of the IEEE Boston Section Office. So many events were being revised on the fly and the need for instructive “direction signs” to guide everyone to the appropriate location was unending. We had a large format HP color printer set on “turbo” to make the signs that Bob would mount on posters and deploy throughout the convention center and adjoining hotels. This and dozens of other “behind the scenes” heroics that are almost invisible to the attendees are what makes the IMS, certainly in Boston, successful.
There were many tours and events for the families of the attendees that wanted to combine the trip to Boston with a family vacation. New England is rich with heritage: Concord and Lexington tours, the Newport, RI mansions, Faneuil Hall marketplace and stores, walking around beautiful Boston and much more. This added dimension to the symposium experience that was spoken of for years.
Our banquet speaker was noted presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. She astounded some with her anecdotes about the Kennedy’s and Roosevelt’s. Others would have preferred a more technical presentation and speaker, but I loved it. Earlier we recognized one of the beloved pioneers of the industry and of the Boston microwave traditions, Ted Saad. For those of you that know Ted, you know the honor it was for me to be able to honor him. Saad was and still is a cornerstone of the foundation of the microwave industry. There are few pioneers like him that measure their entire lives with the dimensions being an entire industry, our industry of microwaves and RF. More importantly, he has successfully passed on many torches to the next generation of leadership so that they can do the same. What more can we say. Thanks, Ted.
Then if you were one of the hardworking volunteers on the Steering Committee or the Administrative Committee of the society there were the mysterious “white buses”. As a “thank you” for the sweat, dedication, long hours of planning and commitment, these tireless workers were treated to a bus ride unlike any other they had ever taken to dinner through the streets of Boston with a full police escort and sirens blaring. Four unmarked white buses left the Marriot Hotel with eight police motorcycle escorts traveling unimpeded through the streets of Boston as hundreds of people on the sidewalk looked in amazement at the smoked glass bus windows wondering what dignitaries deserved this treatment. We looked out at the crowds on the sidewalk that stopped, like statues, to look at our busses and we looked out at them in amazement. Everyone on those busses earned that ride through many years of work. No one remembers what they had at that dinner or my congratulatory presentation; they remember the bus ride that even took them the “wrong way” up one way streets in downtown Boston. For 15 minutes during this brief trip spirits soared, adrenaline rushed, people were staring at the unseen occupants and the white busses as a once in a lifetime police escort guided the way.
We made many mistakes at IMS 2000 and more were queued up each hour during the event. The real skill is to make the problems invisible to the attendees. Rooms were overbooked, too few meals were ordered at some meetings, attendees were constantly looking for rooms or their colleagues, and some companies and their exhibits were placed in meeting rooms or halls. I mentioned the sign operation that was constantly making new signs to direct the attended to the right location as we shifted meeting rooms to accommodate larger the than expected audiences.
Every square inch was booked. We had to fix each challenge on the spot as quickly as possible. The space challenge will not happen in 2009 because the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is HUGE and state-of-the-art. But we do occupy most of it in 2009 with room to spare. LCD displays will replace many of the paper signs, but not all.
There are simply too many Steering Committee members to thank personally in these “rememberings”. They were and are a unique (and heroic) group of dedicated individuals that made up the winning Boston team. I was “blessed” to have them at my side because, as you should already know, they “made it happen” and truly did all the work.
I held the meetings, made a few decisions, and watched. The good news is that you will see them and may meet them at IMS 2009. Yes, they are still at it. Some are retired, some busier than ever at their jobs, some passing on valuable information to new members of the IMS Boston team as they resume their roles as volunteers and as members of the team. I especially remember the tireless dedication of co-chairmen of the Technical Program Committee, Peter Staecker, who was the Chairman of IMS 1991 when I was Co-chairman of the 1991 Technical Program Committee (we switched roles for IMS 2000), and his fellow co-chairman of the TPC, Fred Schindler. Fred is now Chairman of IMS 2009. You see how that goes in Boston. Both Peter and Fred were real leaders in getting the most comprehensive and educational microwave technology program together. And as you can see they are both involved today. That is what makes it all work; year to year, decade to decade.
Fred Schindler, Chairman, 2000 MTT-S Boston Symposium
The IMS has a storied history in Boston. As you’ve read in the articles from past Boston IMS chairs, strong Boston teams work hard to create very successful symposia. So it was a real honor when I was asked to organize a proposal for the 2009 symposium. That was in 2000, just as IMS 2000 was getting underway. After wrapping up IMS 2000 we prepared a proposal, and in June 2001 made a presentation to the MTT AdCom. AdCom, the governing body of the MTT Society, selects IMS sites, usually eight years in advance. It was an unusual selection process that year, including the first AdCom site selection vote to result in a tie. After much discussion Boston prevailed in a second ballot. We were on our way. The challenges we faced in the selection process may have been a foreshadowing of the challenges to come.
This year the IMS returns to Boston for the sixth time, 50 years after the first Boston area IMS. If you look at the IMS 2009 Program Book, you’ll see excerpts from the 1959 program. In 1959 the National Microwave Symposium was held on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, across the river from Boston. The symposium has grown with each return to Boston. Boston symposia have a tradition of being innovative and a history of breaking records. We plan to continue the tradition, but history is not something we can control.
The IMS has grown into a large, complex event. This year over 80 people have been involved organizing the symposium and will be on site helping to run things smoothly. You can see a full list of them and what they’ve done on our website, www.ims2009.org. The IMS is a remarkable volunteer endeavor, where people give their time to serve the community and the MTT Society. When you come to the symposium, you’ll see steering committee members bustling about. Look for them wearing shirts with the IMS 2009 logo, or with white IMS 2009 ribbons on their badges. Thank them!
We have quite a few innovations for 2009. Hopefully they’ll work well. Regardless, I’m confident that we’ll learn from all of them and future symposiums will be better and richer as a result. Here’s a list of some of them:
Boston has always broken IMS records. It’s not difficult to understand why. With a heavy concentration on RF and microwave industry and research facilities in the area, there is always a strong local attendance. Boston is also an attractive destination, which encourages attendance from afar. The Boston history of always breaking records may seem in jeopardy, given economic conditions. Our Steering Committee is also working hard to overcome that obstacle.
Certainly IMS 2009 will break some records. There are already some strong signs. Paper submissions, while not at the all time record level, were still 14 percent above last year and higher than for the last Boston symposium, IMS 2000. Booth sales for the exhibition are another important indicator. I’m writing this in late March, and at this point more booths have been sold for IMS 2009 than for any previous IMS in the same timeframe. Perhaps booths are selling so well because of the troubled economy. The premier RF/microwave trade show in the world is the best opportunity to connect with customers, an opportunity not to be missed in a difficult economy.
For the trade show to be successful, IMS attendance must be high. And strong attendance is also key for the technical sessions and informal networking opportunities to serve their purpose—a meaningful exchange of ideas. The good news is that early technical attendee registrations are also usually high. This may well be because registration is opening two weeks earlier than it has in the past. Hotel bookings are also a promising indicator. Two hotels in the block are essentially sold out already.
One key to the success of any Boston IMS is local attendance. The large local population of RF and microwave researchers, engineers and technicians always flock to the IMS. This is the primary factor that makes me confident IMS 2009 will be a success. I am sure we will have the unusual problems to address; every IMS seems to have something unexpected pop up. We already have an unplanned economic obstacle to overcome, and it may throw us an additional curve or two. But I remain confident. We have a large, committed and experienced Steering Committee, and we are all focused on making sure IMS 2009 is the best event possible. See you there!
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