Adventures in Kwajalein (Part 1 of 3)
It was January 1980 and Ronald Reagan would soon take the Oval Office. The hit TV show Dallas was nearing its finale and Christopher Cross released one of my favorite hits, “Sailing”.
The US economy was in the throes of double digit inflation and a new TV station was born called CNN that would be there to tell us all about it 24 hours a day!
Several months earlier, I was at my job as an electrical engineer specializing in digital circuitry design at the Georgia Institute of Technology Research Institute doing what all good engineers did, thinking up new and better ways of getting things done.
My field was radar signal processing which in 1980, was on the brink of the digital electronics revolution. Whether the radar was tracking a newly launched Russian satellite, determining the density and integrity of the substrate under Interstate highways, or facilitating that state trooper to give you a ticket for exceeding the speed limit, one thing was in common; the data produced by the reflection of that radio frequency beam had to be extensively “processed” in order to get useful information from it.
Exploring the Voids Under Interstate Highways
Sailing - Christopher Cross
On the photo, the antenna pointing downward at the front of the tractor transmits and receives a one nanosecond burst of radio frequency energy. The recorder on the back of the tractor stores the data for computer analysis.
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Kwajalein Island from the South
On this particular day at the job, a new guy was moving into an office down the hall. Being the social person that I am, I wandered down there to introduce myself.
As he hung his pictures on the wall, I noticed that they looked like vacation pictures of turquoise water and white sandy beaches so I naturally asked where they had been taken. He then told me of an atoll literally in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where research was being conducted by the US military to determine whether or not our present technology could detect, classify, and track incoming missiles. Radar was the tool being used and digital signal processing was essential to the success of the experiment.
Over the next two hours he told me all about life on this tiny remote string of islands bounded on the south by the island of Kwajalein and sixty miles to the north by Roi-Namur which was home to the three major Radar systems. As I walked back to my office, I knew where I wanted my next job assignment to be. Six months later, I was there!
One of Three Major Radar Facilities on Roi-Namur
It was the job assignment of a lifetime: sandy beaches, tropical winds and a plane ride to work each morning. Raising two boys in this pristine environment sounds like it would be a dream come true. But living on a Pacific island had its share of challenges.
Stay tuned for more adventures and photos coming in the next chapter, currently under production.