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A Brief History of the Single-Chip DSP, Part I

www.eejournal.com
7 min read
standard
DSP dates back to the very beginnings of the digital age, perhaps even a little bit before. If the construction of the first digital computer, ENIAC, in 1946, marks the beginning of the digital age…
The Birth of Single-Chip DSPs Required a Three-Decade Gestation Period

by Steven Leibson

DSP dates back to the very beginnings of the digital age, perhaps even a little bit before. If the construction of the first digital computer, ENIAC, in 1946, marks the beginning of the digital age in 1946, then DSP popped up a scant two years later. The IEEE published a monograph in 1998 titled "Fifty Years of Signal Processing: The IEEE Signal Processing Society and its Technologies 1948-1998," which marks the start of the DSP age in 1948 by calling it the DSP annus mirabilis. That's the year that Claude Shannon at Bell Telephone Laboratories published his landmark paper titled "A Mathematical Theory of Communication," that carved in stone the relationship between achievable bit rate, channel bandwidth, and signal-to-noise ratio.

It's also the year that Shannon, Bernard M. Oliver, and John R. Pierce – all at Bell Labs – published "The Philosophy of PCM," documenting the practical nature of pulse code modulation and putting the stamp of practicality on PCM, first envisioned by Alec Reeves in 1937. (Bernard Oliver is perhaps better known in wider circles as Barney Oliver, the brilliant man who founded HP Labs in 1966, but that's a different story entirely.) Shannon, Oliver, and Pierce were documenting some of the PCM concepts used to build the top secret SIGSALY secure speech system, a room-sized, 50-ton behemoth that encoded and encrypted the most important speech communications for the Allied forces during World War II.

Coincidentally, Bell Labs announced the development of the transistor on June 30, 1948, the same year it published the two landmark papers that sparked the DSP revolution. (The actual development of the transistor occurred the year before.) The transistor and solid-state electronics would be needed to transform the concepts in the papers published by Shannon, Oliver, and Pierce into practical technologies inexpensive enough to change the world of…
Steven Leibson
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