The History of InfoAge Science & History Museums

Oral Histories - Oral History Phil Petersen and Bernie Ricciardi

Interviewee: Phil Petersen and Bernie Ricciardi 

Interviewer: Michael Ruane
Date: 1998?
Place: Camp Evans – 9039
Media: NTSC Video
Summary: Mr. Irv Bauman

TAPE 6A – Phil Petersen and Bernie Ricciardi

Two engineers identified only as Phil and Bernie, both from the Avionics Research & Development Activity, appeared in this interview. Phil, involved with airborne components, cited weight & size reduction as a prime objective of his Laboratories activity. Results achieved affected related commercial items used in medicine (X-Rays, Lasers), and all electronic devices. Phil stated that all this started with Marconi who initiated a chain of sequential events leading to the development of the TV tube. Edison developed the vacuum tube, the radio tube, then TV. Edison was a “Brute Force” inventor. With very limited education, he kept exploiting an idea until his “paydirt”. Evans Thermionics Branch made special tubes for Radar. Dr. Zahl who was an amateur radio buff wrote books on Radio Posit-ion finding and coined the word RADAR, Radio Direction & Range. George Lockhardt shipped the first Radar to each end of the Panama Canal and a third to Hawaii. Testing was accomplished at Twin Lights, Sandy Hook, which preceded Evans. An Aircraft flew over Long Island, back & forth for a distance of 138 mi. Radar tracked the plane while Army, Navy & USAF representatives witnessed the successful results. This led to the authorization to proceed with the assembly of the aforementioned 3 systems at Ft. Monmouth.
When asked about his pre-Monmouth work, Phil said he was going to install marine radio equipment as a small business entrepreneur. However, with the advent of wartime, parts could not be procured. He found a job at Ft. Monmouth when he received TWX to report. Ralph Cole informed him of the formation of the RDF & RPF Branch. He was hired at $1800/yr because he included amateur radio experience in his Form 57, the Federal Application Form for employment.
Bernie became involved with HF Antenna, 100 ft. wavelength. He shrunk a 4 footer to one much smaller with greater efficiency. He worked designing for the Navy, an antenna for the “Thrasher” Submarine. When he visited the sub, noticing the giant size radios, he suggested and provided smaller radio units with, at least, the other’s performance. Unfortunately, the Thrasher went out to sea and never returned. For this job, the antenna had to be electronically tuned and all knobs had to controlled remotely. Collins Radio assisted the work on the VH-60, CH-47 Helicopters, which needed non-vertical skywave transmission. Bernie felt great, dedicating a summer to this work. He then spoke about a Bowling League where shop people and engineers participated, promoting camaraderie among project personnel.
In the Evans rear area, Helicopters would land to receive experimental antenna patterns. Bernie felt that Evans Radio and Radar Technology was tops in the field. He indicated that soldering circuitry no longer is used. Now it’s all printed circuits, untouched by human hands, and using photography to create the circuit. His colleague, Moe Abramson of the Electronics Components Laboratory co-invented the dip-soldering process used worldwide to make printed circuits today.
 Printed circuits, along with the advent of transistors, led to radio and TV sets becoming inexpensive to manufacture and also helped to create. the computer industry. Another innovator, Mr. Armsrong who did many experiments at Evans, encouraging engineers to keep experimenting with their ideas since the electronics field is fertile for innovation. He invented successfully a regenerative detector circuit and the Super-heterodyne, so widely in use today to separate broadcast stations. The FM Super Regenerative Receiver was another of his contributions. Armstrong was treated poorly despite his accomplishments. He did lots of good work for Ft. Monmouth. He died in 1950. Another great among electronics innovators was Art Collins who also worked closely with Monmouth engineers. Both Phil and Bernie found career fulfillment in their work at Ft. Monmouth.

45 min.

Page updated January 2, 2004  Page created August 2, 2002

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