Career Technical Writing High-Lights

In academia we have to maintain a vita for Tenure and Promotion purposes and also for seeking financial support from various agencies. Now that I am retired it does not appear that I need that vita anymore but it is interesting that in looking at the different publications down through the years it portrays a trail of evolving interests and experiences. The following list of publications, along with anecdotal notes, provide a view of what I see as some of the best experiences in my professional career. - FHI

Irons, FH, "Magnetometer for Small Specimens," IBM Technical Report, Endicott, NY, Jan 31, 1955, 18pp, Code:TR105.096.359
This was my first engineering job and took me out of state for the summer of 1954. It convinced my Dad that I was not going to return to the farm. I designed the magnetometer from a schematic in RM Bozorth's physics book. It was used to measure the magnetic properties of thin films in support of the development of the magnetic drum memory device. Later the magnetometer was built into a servo-controlled system to measure samples automatically.

------, "Digital Storage of Statistical Data," IRE Trans. on Nuclear Science, Vol.NS-7, No.1, Mar 1960, pp 43-48.
This graduate research work used a 14-track tape recorder to store digital samples from a photo-multiplier tube in the study of low level radiation effects for the Radio-Activity Center at MIT. It was fully transistorized and stored digital samples in parallel on a short loop of tape. The concept centered around the random nature of pulse arrival times to not have to preserve time information. This system eliminated the need for lab technicians to manually create histograms from thousands of samples taken from strip chart recorder outputs. The storage system would record for several days and then produce the statistics of the experiment in seconds. A beginning in automation!

------, "Active Filters: Properties and Applications," Frequency, Mar-Apr 1964
This tutorial paper was in connection with the Guillemin Networks (GNI) adventure over the period 1962-67. The publisher was another new firm, like us, and so we published a paper there in cooperation with helping them get started. GNI pioneered the use of active filters in the development of many systems, such as: vocoders; seismic array receivers; off-shore drilling platform stabilizers; gated ranging radar circuits; underwater sonic analyzers; and many others. The paper talked about active filters and their advantages and touched on the basic problem of stability. At that time, there was a fad for negative impedance converters and other positive feedback approaches, but Dr. Guillemin was never convinced. The paper hinted at, but did not really explain, the approach favored by Guillemin. He did not trust the patent system (he really admired Armstrong) and so we went for a Trade Secret approach to protect our product position. The successful development of the opamp as a component made the whole problem a moot point and made it possible for most companies to design their own active filtering right into their own electronics.

Bryant,TG & ------, "An Analysis of Coupled-Pair Microstrip Transmission Lines," Univ. of Maine, D.I.C. Report No. 855(S-196) to M.I.T. Lincoln Laboratory, 1968.
Tom was my first graduate student. This work stemmed from a summer job that Tom had at Lincoln Lab in the summer of 1967 under the guidance of Jerry Weiss. Their work resulted in the publication of a famous and oft referenced paper on coupled-microstrip lines. I was the local supervisor for the work but did make the contribution to use strip-charge finite elements rather than line charges. This removed a troublesome singularity in the formation of the problem and led to highly convergent results for the algorithm.

------, An Analysis of Scattering from Dielectric Obstacles in Rectangular Guides, PhD Thesis, Lehigh Univ., 1971.
This work was performed at Lehigh University, from 1969-71, and involved the development of algorithms to compute equivalent circuit effects for resonant obstacles in wave-guiding structures. The purpose was to automate CAD tools for the design of UHF filter structures. This was an interesting problem that really pushed the finite element methods of Roger Harrington and was limited by computer speed and memory space. Two-port reactance versus frequency dependence was estimated for each obstacle, through resonance, in a non-homogeneous field space. It was a challenging exercise and it would be interesting to apply today's super fast and large memory computers to see how they would perform on the problem. We came within a few percent with extremely limited computing power, by today's standards. The key to the problem was in trying to determine the set of eigenvalues that yielded the waves that contributed the most stored energy in the determination of reactance values. This turned out to be a frequency dependent phenomena.

------ & Naimpally,S, "Iterative Active All-pass Structures for Arbitrary Attenuation Requirements," IEEE 19th Midwest Symp on Ckts & Sys, Aug 1976, pp 399-404.
This was a surprisingly neat little solution to the approximation problem using a cascade structure of unit-gain one-pole all-pass networks. Fourier theory is used to obtain a set of real coefficients to fit an arbitrary attenuation function. The technique is unique, and coupled with Lanczos smoothing to weight the truncated Fourier series coefficients, the resultant responses come arbitrarily close to the objective function. The circuit realization easily lends itself to IC fabrication technology and is a very practical solution for obtaining a simple and general purpose filter synthesizing architecture.

------ & Gilbert,MG, "A New Formulation of the Approximation Problem," IEEE Trans on Ckts & Sys,Vol. CAS-24, No.5, May 1977, pp 231-241.
This paper solves the filter approximation problem to fit a ratio of equal order polynomials to arbitrary attenuation requirements as specified on a dB vs. frequency space by means of a straight-line connected function. This is a problem that Dr. Guillemin envisioned the computer being able to solve but he never did get to see that happen. The algorithm uses curve fitting techniques as described in his Synthesis of Passive Networks for the Hilbert transform relationship between phase and loss functions. The minimum phase thus derived is split into two monotonically increasing parts, one for the numerator and the other for the denominator. These phase functions yield unique polynomials that are a close fit to the objective function and are very close to a global minimum for optimizing the selection of the polynomial parameters. Thus the solution to the approximation problem is reduced to invoking physical conditions for the initial choice of polynomials in an optimizing procedure. The solution is very practical for active filters where the numerator can easily be obtained from the pole-generating circuits in a state-variable type of structure. In addition, since the method uses zeros as effectively as poles, the procedure yields a minimum order in its solution to the approximation problem. This is my favorite paper for my whole career.

Special Projects~~~Somewhere along the way, in the mid-1970's, I realized it was important to enable the graduate student's to work on what they wanted to work on and not let my own personal research interests dominate their choice. This resulted in some really fun projects, e.g.:

Bill Jeffrey ('74) - Designed, built, and evaluated a variable resolution PCM system for speech signals using synchronized pseudo-random dither at the transmitter and receiver. The system was able to work at a 3-bit resolution using this technique. Typical telephone systems use 8-bits. Bill used recorded tapes and carefully designed test methods to determine the reliability of untrained listeners for evaluating this system at different resolution levels.
Andy McClellan ('75) - Built a spread spectrum receiver/transmitter to tag and track aquatic animals in a noisy environment. This was in cooperation with the Zoology department and we actually tracked fish in the Stillwater River.
Jim Lester ('76) - Jim was a radio ham and wanted to build a narrow-beam antenna array structure but the problem was how to measure the pattern. He built a skirt array, ala Kraus, on the (flat) roof of Barrows Hall and used radio astronomy methods to estimate the pattern as a selected star passed through the antenna aperture. That was one real exciting project in freezing mid-winter but Jim succeeded in his goal. The antenna remained on the roof until sometime in the 90's before it was removed. It was impressive to "see" the sun for several hours after it had set below or before it rose above the horizon.

These students proved to me that I did not have to be expert in the subject to help them learn about and work effectively in a subject area of interest to them. I ended up learning a lot too!

*  *   *

-----, "Standoff Single-Station Command Guidance Technology: Experimental Results"(U), Tech Report 744, M.I.T. Lincoln Laboratory, Aug 1986. (Secret)
This is a classified report, but it should be declassified around 2011! There is Unclassified information included in the Appendices that document how the system was designed and implemented. It is the results that are classified. We implemented 8-ary codes with programmable SAW convolvers operating over 160 to 320 MHz. There was a lot of high-speed circuitry to synchronize acquisition and to decode received data. The generation of modulating and demodulating codes involved a lot of digital and analog design and overall presented a very capable agile-beam state-of-the-art spread-spectrum modem link. This flying system was able to demonstrate reliable performance when subjected to substantial main-beam jamming. This was probably the best technology project that I had the privilege to work on during my career.

Rebold, TA, & ------, "A Phase-Plane Approach to the Compensation of High-Speed Analog-to-Digital Converters," IEEE Intl Symp on Ckts & Sys, May 1987, Philadelphia, Pa. pp 455-458.
This study established the beginning of work to characterize ADC behavior so that errors could be removed by post-processing methods for spectral analysis applications. Here we made the premise that flash converter error could be modeled using the ADC state and input signal slope at the time the sample was acquired. This proved to be fundamental to most of the successful dynamic compensation methods for several years until the Pipeline and Sigma-Delta devices arrived on the scene and became technically feasible. It is interesting that in ADC design, as in other fields as well, if you start measuring a device for certain performance and specify the procedures and errors, designers will "design out" the errors in subsequent designs. That is in the case where a product has enough volume to justify the design effort and cost.

Hummels, DM, -----, Cook, R, & Papantonopoulos, Y, "Characterization of ADCs Using a Non-Iterative Procedure", IEEE Intl Symp on Ckts & Sys, May 1994, London, England pp 5- 8, Vol.2.
This paper spells out the FFT procedures used to obtain ADC error functions from a set of sinewave calibration tests. The method is by direct inversion of a single matrix and obtains a result that provides error correction over most of a given Nyquist band.

------, & Hummels,DM, "The Modulo Time Plot - A Useful Data Diagnostic Tool", IEEE Trans. on Instrumentation & Measurement, Vol.45 No.5, pp 734-738, Jun 1996
During the 1990's we wrote a lot of sophisticated papers dealing with obtaining ADC error functions, but this one simple performance evaluation procedure was always being used and taught to new students. It is a simple procedure to determine if your data acquisition system is really working correctly before you invest time to collect calibration data for an ADC. It is simple to use for any acquisition system and anyone that ever used it was always impressed by how much you could tell about what was going on. So we wrote it to document the procedure for others to use. Basically, with sinewave testing, you align the data set over one full period of the test signal and you can see whether you have noise in the system, missing states (due to bad connections, etc), over-driving the ADC (clipping), the statistical independence (or lack of) in residual errors, etc. This is a practically useful procedure and a popular procedure with our lab assistants.

------, Riley, KJ, Hummels, DM, & Friel, GA, "The Noise Power Ratio - Theory and ADC Testing," IEEE Trans on Instrumentation & Measurement, Vol 49, No.3, Jun 2000, pp 659-665 (ISSN 0018-9456)
Back in the mid-1980's when I started work on characterizing ADCs, the noise power ratio (NPR) test was thought to be the best test for ADCs for broadband signal applications. Initial work indicated that this was not true since the test allowed excessive harmonic distortion to go undetected. We tested ADCs that fit ideal 12-bit performance using existing NPR theory but actually had enough distortion to exhibit 3 or more lost bits of resolution when tested with sinewaves. So this paper resolves that issue by finding out that using a random signal with uniform pdf yields results that agree with sinewave testing whereas the signal with a Gaussian pdf does not yield corresponding results. It was a relief to finally demonstrate the difference through using a programmed DAC to generate specific signals and then perform the NPR test with these synthesized test signals. The paper also presents a full development of the theoretical relationships for each type of signal and it provides the basis for the results used in the IEEE Standard 1241 on ADC testing.

Irons, Fred H, Introduction to Electrical Circuits and Signals,
Vol.1, University of Maine Printing Services,
1st Edition, 1992, 2nd Edition, Dec, 2000, 414 pp
Irons, Fred H, Introduction to Electrical Circuits and Signals,
Vol.2, University of Maine Printing Services,
1st Edition, 1993, 2nd Edition, Apr, 2001, 453 pp
I wrote and used these texts for 5 years to introduce a design oriented and modern circuits course to the 2nd year Electrical and Computer engineering students at the University of Maine. It was a successful venture as the course, the text, and myself all received high evaluations. The text is based on my experiences over the years and it was a fun project to assemble and teach introductory circuit theory to take advantage of computer math tools in a fashion that other popular texts do not do. It was a pleasure to see the number of students that were inspired to go on for PhDs and to become committed to an academic career as a consequence of their experiences in learning the material in these texts. I have always felt that my receiving the Maine Distinguished Professor Award was a direct result of teaching this course and writing these texts.

Irons, FH, Theory and Design of Active Filters for Integrated-Circuit Applications,
University of Maine Printing Services Sep, 2003, 410 pp
This text is derived from a technical elective course that I taught in the '90's on the subject of active filters. The text was written as a retirement project to document the many techniques that are not used in other texts and to provide a modern teaching reference for the subject. Unique approaches are included for both the state variable approach and for switched capacitor techniques. The text concludes with a chapter where the above paper on the approximation problem is redeveloped using Matlab. In addition it is demonstrated on several examples and shown to be a very useful approach to solving the filter design problem. The course was always fun to teach as the students liked it very much and it always received high ratings from the students. It was one of my favorite courses to teach.

April 2005 Active Filters for Integrated-Circuit Applications
426 pp, 8 Chapters, ISBN 1-58053-896-7, $125
First draft completed in Sep 2003. This text has been published by Artech House, Inc and is currently available through their distribution system or at Visit for more detail.

This text is derived from a technical elective course that I taught in the '90's on the subject of active filters. The text was written as a retirement project to document the many techniques that are not used in other texts and to provide a modern teaching reference for the subject. Unique approaches are included for both the state variable approach and for switched capacitor techniques. The text concludes with a chapter where a unique solution to the approximation problem is redeveloped using Matlab. In addition it is demonstrated on several examples and shown to be a very useful approach to solving the filter design problem. The course was always fun to teach as the students liked it very much and it always received high ratings from the students. It was one of my favorite courses to teach.

Extensive use of the computer is emphasized, through Matlab and uCAP, where a large number of practical circuit designs are simulated and compared for design examples throughout the text.

For more detail about the contents and coverage of material, see the
Table of Contents. For a discussion on the Features, Content, and Use of Material, read the Preface from the text.
Contact Artech House Inc. or Amazon to order this book.

Dec 2007 Introduction to Electrical Circuits and Signals
3rd Edition
Printed by Fidlar Doubleday, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4276-2637-0

A modern textbook for engineers interested in Electrical Engineering fundamentals, it is a revised edition for the above two volumes used for several years in the sophomore course here at UMaine. The book employs a unique collection of material and carefully illustrates the use of computer-aided (Matlab/MathCad) mathematical procedures to accomplish design. It is a good text to review most undergraduate material preparatory to taking qualifying exams.

The Book has drill problems with answers at the end of each lesson plus hundreds of review problems spaced about every third lesson throughout the text. Example laboratory exercises are also included in an appendix. Perfect bound, 78 chapters, 876 pp, indexed, 780 figures, detailed examples in each lesson, answers to selected review problems are also included in an appendix.

For more detail about the contents, see the
Table of Contents.

$39.95 includes Shipping (a bargain offerred here only)
The ISBN is registered with Books-in-Print and the book can be ordered through

About the price: My better half says the book won't sell because the price is too low. Normally technical books of this size, with so many figures and equations, cost well over $100 (as see above the commercial price for the active filter book). This price is set where it is because I want to make it readily available to student and struggling graduate budgets. That is why the price is what it is.

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Last update: Nov 23, 2011