June 17, 2010
Andrew J. Viterbi, Developer of the Viterbi Algorithm, to Receive 2010 IEEE Medal of Honor
Breakthrough Contributions Have Impacted Communications Technologies Ranging from Deep Space to Digital Cellular Applications
Andrew J. Viterbi, developer of the Viterbi algorithm and other breakthroughs that play key roles in operating computer disk drives, satellite communications and mobile telephones, is being honored by IEEE with the 2010 IEEE Medal of Honor. IEEE is the world’s largest professional association advancing technology for humanity.
The medal, sponsored by the IEEE Frank A. Cowan Fund and the IEEE Foundation and representing IEEE’s highest award, recognizes Viterbi for seminal contributions to communications technology and theory. The medal will be presented on 26 June 2010 at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and will be broadcast live on the Web through IEEE.tv (www.ieee.tv).
Viterbi’s contributions to communications technology have impacted the lives of people throughout the world. There is a Viterbi detector in practically every disk drive and high-capacity MP3 player, images transmitted from deep space are made possible by the Viterbi algorithm, and third-generation mobile telephones employ one or more of Viterbi’s systems. Viterbi co-founded Qualcomm Incorporated with Irwin Jacobs in 1985 and introduced Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) as a more efficient digital cellular system that became the system of choice for wireless communications.
Viterbi developed what became known as the Viterbi Algorithm in 1967 while a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Viterbi Algorithm was a breakthrough in wireless technology that separated information (voice and data) from background noise, and it fundamentally changed the way digital communications are processed. The algorithm is used in most digital cellular phones and satellite receivers as well as in such diverse fields as magnetic recording, voice recognition and DNA sequence analysis. It also has been incorporated into all NASA deep-space spacecraft since the 1970s.
Viterbi’s vision and technical leadership at Qualcomm pioneered the revolutionary CDMA system for mobile communications. Utilizing spread-spectrum technology, CDMA allows many users to occupy the same time and frequency allocations. It provides more efficient use of power and bandwidth, enables more calls in the same geographic region and emits a lower level of radiated power in the phone/device. It became the standard for third-generation cellular phones due in large part to Viterbi’s efforts. Viterbi began his career in 1957 at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped design the first successful U.S. satellite (Explorer I). After retiring from Qualcomm in 2000, he founded the Viterbi Group, which invests in startup companies in the wireless communications and network infrastructure sectors.
An IEEE Life Fellow, Viterbi holds memberships in the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received the National Medal of Science in 2008 from U.S. President George W. Bush as well as several IEEE awards and honors from other international organizations. The University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, renamed its school of engineering the Viterbi School of Engineering in 2004. Viterbi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and a doctorate from USC. He is currently president of the Viterbi Group, San Diego, Calif., and also holds the titles of Presidential Chair Visiting Professor at USC and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Technion, Haifa, Israel.
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