50 Years of Electronics Letters

2 January 2014

IEE news article

The development and launch of Electronics Letters was followed with interest in the IEE News

Professor Peter Clarricoats and Sir Eric Ash

Professor Peter Clarricoats (left) founded Electronics Letters and Sir Eric Ash (right) joined as Editor in 1966

Watch the video in which the past and present Editors of Electronics Letters look back over 50 years of publication.


In 1963 there was great interest in many aspects of microwave engineering in particular, and in the burgeoning field of semiconductor electronics and circuit systems. The rapid communication of the latest advances in microwave components containing ferrite materials that offered non-reciprocal properties was served in part by the journal Applied Physics Letters but most other electronics-related activity in industry and universities had no outlet for rapid short announcements. Thus, a suggestion was made to the Council of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE – now the Institution of Engineering and Technology, IET) that a new journal should be launched to fill the gap. It was agreed that Electronics Letters should be published bi-monthly and the first Issue appeared in March 1964.

It is hard to imagine how different the field of electronics was 50 years ago. In microwaves there was a concentrated effort on components related to radar and in the prospect of long haul communication using circular waveguides. Then, around 1966, a major development occurred when it was recognised that quartz fibre could provide an alternative to circular waveguides for long-haul communication. Many of the early theoretical announcements on that topic were published in Electronics Letters to be followed by a plethora of Letters describing experimental results as we entered the 1970s. Solid state lasers and amplifiers were also prominent.

Satellite communication systems were in competition at that time following the launch of Intelsat 1 in 1973. New antennas were required to more efficiently direct the signals to and from Earth to the satellite in geostationary orbit, and massive improvements in electronics occurred in the satellite payload with the emergence of integrated circuits and complex beam formers. At the satellite, arrays competed with shaped reflectors to direct and receive the beam. The problem of shaped beam diffraction synthesis by reflector shaping was first aired in Electronics Letters.  

The first trials of undersea optical cables occurred in the mid-1970s, leading to the form we know today as trans-oceanic optical fibre cables. These provide the backbone of the Internet while satellites are the basis for TV distribution to the home, and for remote newscasters and digital transmission.

Consistent with these developments, the advances in computer power made possible the analysis of design problems that would have been impossible a decade earlier. These were reflected in Electronics Letters with contributions ranging from microwave filters to image processing. Countless times has ‘the lady with the feather in her hat’ appeared in our pages as research groups world-wide improved their algorithms, enabling better pictures to be formed with fewer bits.

As we moved to the 1990s we have seen a widening of the countries from which contributions have arrived. In the early days these came mainly from the UK and the USA but with the arrival of mobile communication systems, more contributions arrived from Asia. Handset antenna design was prominent and base station schemes for improving reliability by the use of multiple input/multiple output antennas were extensively explored. Continental Europe has always been a valuable source of high quality Letters from the early issues and this trend continues today.

With the success of Electronics Letters, other Letters journals have inevitably appeared. It is a tribute to the Editorial Staff of the IEE (later IET) and the rapid publication process that our journal continues to flourish in the face of stiff competition. Among new areas have come medical related topics and, of late, the emergence of a new class of artificial material known as a metamaterial. New materials such as Graphene hold great prospects for the future and we feel sure that, in time, Electronics Letters will provide an avenue for the rapid publication of components and systems employing this extraordinary material.

When we celebrated the 25th Year of Publication of Electronics Letters we could not have envisaged all the changes that have occurred over the 25 years to follow and it is gratifying to see that, in the capable hands of Professor Chris Toumazou and Professor Ian White, the journal continues to flourish. We wish it every success for the next 25 years but it will require a miracle of medical science if we are around to see the 75th Anniversary!

Further reading

A PDF version (new window) of this feature article is also available.

Journal content

Cover of Electronics Letters, Volume 49, Issue 25

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Browse or search all papers in the latest or past issues of Electronics Letters on the IET Digital Library.