Electronic Design

From Step To Step To Success

Andrew Viterbi explains his success as just following one step after another. "Most of what I did was a natural extension of what I did before," he says. "There were no eureka moments. I had the right background. At the right time, I was at the right place."

His groundbreaking work in the cellular field, for example, grew out of the work he did after graduation on "very advanced spread-spectrum systems for satellite tracking at JPL," he says. The next step was to use spread-spectrum technology for communications between truckers and their long-haul trucking companies. Cell phones didn’t exist. The companies regularly needed to reach their drivers and determine their location.

Once cell phones were developed, the next logical step was easy for him. "After we used spread-spectrum technology for the trucking industry, it seemed natural to apply the technology to cell phones," he says. "But that concept wasn’t so easy for others to comprehend. Most U.S. cell-phone companies were using a different technology."

It took three years for Viterbi and his colleagues to convince the industry this technology could work better than others. "Finally in the mid-nineties it was accepted," he says. One big reason for its acceptance was its adoption in parts of highly populated Asia.

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