Alec Harley Reeves ( Harley was his mother $ inaugural name ) was bom a century ago, on 2 March 1902, at Redhill in Surrey He attended Reigate Grammar School, won a scholarship to the City & A ; Guilds Engineering College, and in 192 1 went to Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. Graduating in 1923, Reeves joined International Western Electric. a prima maker of wireless and communications equipment, and he remained with the company for about 50 old ages. He worked ab initio at New Southgate in North London, where, with Maurice Deloraine. he helped construct the first high-frequency wireless telephone nexus across the Atlantic.
In 1925, following the coup d’etat of IWE by International Telephone and Telegraph, Reeves moved to ITS Loborotoires Central de Plecommunicolion in Paris, where he rapidly established a repute as an outstanding wireless and communications applied scientist.
It was in Paris, in 1937, that Reeves formulated the rules of pulse-code modulation-laying the foundations for all of today ‘s digital and multimedia engineerings. Rather than the linear ‘voice-shaped current ‘ used to stand for address since Bell ‘s innovation of the telephone in 1876. Reeves proposed that sound be sampled at regular intervals, with the values of these samples represented by binary Numberss and transmitted as univocal on-off pulsations. . & lt ; The valve-based engineering of the clip was non up to the occupation. hut Reeves ‘s extraordinary patent of 1937 indicated the needed circuit design rules. PCM was non used commercially until the innovation of the transistor decennaries subsequently, although the technique was foremost applied by Bell Labs for the complex and cumbrous wireless system on which Churchill and Roosevelt talked in entire secretiveness for much of the Second World War. Whether Bell Labs were cognizant of Reeves ‘s PCM patents is ill-defined, but Reeves subsequently acknowledged their part to the practical execution of his thought.
Reeves seems to hold enjoyed his clip in Paris. He went skiing, climbed and played in the Gallic unfastened tennis title. But this comfy life was suddenly curtailed when the Germans invaded France in 1940. Reeves escaped to Spain merely in clip, finally making England on a coal boat.
A committed pacificist, he was ab initio loath to set about war work, but he recognised the moral necessity of get the better ofing Hider and was seconded to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnhorough where his endowments Q 1 ASGET I were rapidly spotted by the powerful Head of Scientific Intelligence, R. V Jones.
The conflict of the beams
By 1940. it was going painfuUy apparent that the Bomber Command offense intended to destruct the mills that supplied arms and natural stuffs to the Nazi ‘war machine ‘ was in serious trouble-amply iUustrated by the continued endurance of the elephantine Krupps plants in Essen. For two old ages. Bomber Command had laboured against this mill with small success. Even the celebrated thousand-bomber foraies missed the mill completely-though they damaged the country unit of ammunition it.
The cause and extent of Britain ‘s failure was non to the full understood until a elaborate survey of aerial exposure of 4065 sallies revealed that two-thirds of bombs fell more than five stat mis from their mark. fie chief ground was hapless pilotage. Even for the most skilled aews, this was something of a black art affecting a mixture of dead calculation and ocular recogni-tion-which in bend required clear skies, doing the bombers themselves seeable to the enemy This survey exposed an uncomfortable sarcasm British aviators were losing German marks because they could non happen them. Yet. as the people of London, Coventry and other British metropoliss knew to their cost, their German opposite numbers appeared to hold no such trouble What was their secret? The reply was beams. While German radio detection and ranging was by and large less effectual than Britain ‘s, the Luftwaffe ‘s usage of wireless as a manner to steer bombers to their mark was, at least ab initio, far in progress of the RAF ‘s. There were many systems with names like Knickebein ( which literally means ‘crooked leg ‘ ) Ten and Y GerCt and so on, but they all depended on beams of wireless energy that were transmitted from the European mainland and which intersected at or near their British mark.
Jones had to work hard to carry some conservative figures in the Air Ministry of the deathly significance of these systems, but he was finally given the resources needed to observe, decipher and destruct them. One of those he recruited was Alec Reeves. The work of Reeves and his co-workers shortly paid off, with many German senders located and desuoyed-often by the simple expedient of winging back down the beam until its beginning was found and bombed. Just as of import. their secrets were bit by bit exposed and Reeves. now at the Telecommunications Research Establishment. was given the undertaking of developing a similar device to assist British bombers find and hit German weaponries mills.
The birth of Oboe
Reeves ‘s reply was superb, effectual and. like all his best thoughts, inherently simple. His get downing point was the realization that conventional beam systems had a cardinal defect. Just like the visible radiation from a torch, wireless beams at the frequences so available spread out so that, when far from base, the pilot could non find his place with an truth greater than a few stat mis. This was n’t a job when assailing a big mark like a metropolis, but made hitting a little mark such as a mill, virtually impossible. Reeves besides appreciated that while radio detection and ranging measured distance ( or scope ) really accurately, it was much less good at judging the direction-or bearing-of the object with regard to the land station.
Uniting these penetrations. Reeves decided to utilize two, widely-separated land Stationss, called Cat ( the tracking station ) and Mouse ( the release station ) , each directing wireless pulsations towards a plane. When these pulsations were amplified by a receiving system in the plane and returned to the two Stationss, the distance between the plane and the land Stationss could be measured exactly. If the distance between plane and Cat was kept changeless, the plane would wing in an discharge centred on the land station, and if the place of the mark was known, it was possible to guarantee that the arc-and hence the plane-passed precisely over it. To maintain the plane on path, the wireless circuit besides carried Morse signals which the pilot heard as hearable tones: elans if he was winging excessively far off from the station or points if he was excessively near it. While he was on the right class he heard a steady note and when a TRE scientist called Tony Bates likened its sound to an hautboy, the name stuck The 2nd station, the Mouse, calculated how far down the path the plane had travelled and sent Morse letters ( A, B. C and D ) to the sailing master when he was ten, eight, six and three proceedingss from the mark. A hal signal told him when he had reached the release point-a point determined by complex computations that took history of the plane ‘s height, the weight of the bomb, weather conditions and other factors. In rule, the land station could trip the bomb release button so that, for the first clip in history. bombardment could be done by remote control. In pattern, bowever. pilots and sailing masters preferred to maintain such a important operation in their ain sets. Furthermore, they insisted the accountants who guided them were trained bomber aircrew-often co-workers who had finshed their tonr of responsibility or been forced to go forth active service because of hurt After the war, F. E. Jones-the superb applied scientist who masterminded the practical execution of Oboe-expressed the position that, one twenty-four hours. such engineering might enable planes to wing with no crew at all, somethmg merely now being explored by the universe ‘s air forces.
Though the system Reeves and Jones had devised offered antecedently undreamed of degrees of truth, Oboe had three important restrictions. First, because the aircraft had to stay in line of sight of the sender masts, the curvature of the Earth limited the scope at which it could run. Second, it was merely able to command one airplane at a clip. Finally, its theoretical truth could be to the full exploited merely if the location of the mark was known to within a few pess.
Important progresss in equipment and methodological analysis arrived merely in clip to get the better of these troubles. The lone manner to widen the scope of Oboe was by increasing the height at which the plane flew, and by good luck thr astonishing De Havilland Mosquito-which could make 30000 pess or more-now came into service.The capacity job was solved by the debut of a wholly new manner of utilizing bombers. A little fleet of ‘Pathfinder ‘ aircraft would drop marker flairs over the mark and a bigger chief force of bombers so aimed at the flairs utilizing conventional bombsights. Finally. the map grids of Britain and Continental Europe were exactly aligned-a undertaking started by the Germans to assist them blast the British seashore during the First World War.
By late 1942, trials showed that Reeves ‘s thought was executable and that Oboe-guided planes could, in rule, bead bombs within 50 paces of their mark from every bit high as 30000 pess in complete darkness or entire cloud. The RAF now began to construct land Stationss at distant locations on the English seashore so that it could he set into operational service.
On 5 March 1943, Oboe directed eight Mosquito airplanes towards the German metropolis of Essen in front of 400 heavy bombers. Their mark was the Krupps steel mills, and the foray was a entire success. The mill suffered immense harm and lost at least three months ‘ production. During 1943 and 1944, the RAF launched 1000s of foraies on the Rub-many guided by Oboe-forcing Hitler to travel arms and soldiers from the Russian forepart to help Germany ‘s defense mechanism. Then, on 5 June 1944, 50 Pathfinder Mosquitoes, directed by Oboe. led 1000 bombers to unclutter the manner for the D-Day landing by pulverizing nine of the 10 heavy guns that would otherwise hold decimated the invading forces.
Mobile Oboe ground-stations now crossed the channel to steer onslaughts on countries of Germany hitherto inaccessible to the Pathfinders, finally including Berlin itself. Reeves ‘s system was used to lay waste toing consequence against fuel terminals, railroads and other critical communications. conveying the German ground forces about to a arrest. In May 1945, Oboe even directed nutrient beads to hungering Dutch civilians. Oboe was the most precise bombardment system used by either side during the war ; so nil as accurate would be until the yearss of the sateuite. In all, the RAF used it in over 9000 foraies while the USAF flew some 1600 Oboe-assisted missions. Because of the height at which they operated ; Oboe aircrew losingss were bantam compared with those of chief force bombers ( Bomber Command lost about 50000 air crew, while Scout losingss were limited to a few hundred ) . It had arrived in clip to turn the tide of tbe war and may good hold saved Britain from licking in 1943-just as the Chain Home radio detection and ranging system had done earlier.
Peace once more
In 1945, Alec Reeves returned to TTT, working at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in Harlow on ways to increase the capacity and dependability of communications systems.. He helped develop some of the earliest electronic exchanging systems and was a innovator of semiconducting material devices, including the ulua-fast ‘positive spread ‘ Ge rectifying tube. He was among the first to appreciate the possibility of utilizing light to transport information, and in the late sixtiess inspired the squad under Charles Kao and George Hockham that secured the fust patent for an operational optical-fibre system. Reeves spent his concluding old ages with IT as a sort of free-lance ‘bofEn ‘ . descrying tendencies or suggesting avenues of research whose possible younger applied scientists would look into.
The ‘equilibrium ‘ method
Though the accomplishments of this extraordinary adult male are good documented. comparatively small is known of his methods and. in peculiar, the beginnings of his advanced. and original thoughts. He said plenty, nevertheless. to propose that his head did non ever work in obvious or conventional ways. In particnlar, he seems to hold attached unusual importance to the value of calm-sometimes about abstract-reflection. He gave some intimation of his methods in a talk about his ‘equilibrium ‘ method of coding information. ‘ I see, or think I see, a demand, ‘ he said. ‘I so loosen up and ruminate about it, leting full sway for a clip to any possible solution to it that comes into my head-sensible or brainsick Sometimes I so draw space for a spot. seeing at one time that all the thoughts that have come are unsound. Then comes an exciting minute, one of intense rational pleasure-for I merely know, without cogent evidence yet, that some fmther thought is non merely sound hut that it can he a victor I so work on it, hy ordinary logical steps.This is where the difficult work comes in, non in acquiring the thought itself-for even when you know a diamond is at that place, it can still he an attempt to draw it out of difficult land, and cut it into form ‘ .
Mind and affair
It is non of class unusual for originative people-including many scientists and engineers-to believe that thoughts or solutions are someway ‘out there ‘ , waiting to he grasped hy the those equipped to recognize their significance. For most this is little more than a figure of speech-a manner of stating that we do non rather cognize how an thought has occurred to us. For Reeves, nevertheless, ‘out there ‘ had a much moIe actual significance and was closely related to an intense, womb-to-tomb fascinatiou with the operation, capacity and character of the human encephalon.
The most conventional look of this involvement was his belief in the possibilities of telekinesis ( the thought that the head can do physical actions without the intercession of the organic structure ) and telepathy ( one individual ‘s ability to infer what another is believing without the usage of marks or address ) . Rewes pursued this involvement as aiiy good scientist should: by agencies of practical experiment. In ‘Birth of the Smart Bomber ‘ , a recent Channel 4 movie about Oboe, TRE applied scientist Frank Warner described how he built simple setup on Reeves ‘s instructions to prove the possibility that sad or happy ideas might travel a composition board cylinder balanced on top of a wine glass. It is diagnostic of Reeves ‘s disposition and sense of precedences that this work was being done at the tallness of the war. When others might hold escaped from their work hy relaxing, he devoted equal energy to the chase of a parallel involvement that he took every spot every bit earnestly as his ‘proper ‘ work.
At the last
That the electrochemical actinty of the encephalon might enable thought to be ‘read ‘ at a distance is something many applied scientists are willing to accept ; so there has been research into its usage as a manner of commanding IT systems. But science discoveries harder to accept or even discus-that it with the dead. The extent of his involvement in had B & A ; ef that might in Some be Possible to ComUniCate ‘survival ‘ is ody now coming to light via the immense volume of documents and notebooks.. . ; . depicting the complex experiments through which he sought replies to inquiries posed to figures from the past-almost surely including the great experimentalist, Michael Faraday, who had died in 1867 and by whom Reeves felt he was guided.
Reeves ‘s notebooks show that his psychic research occupied him for many hours at a clip on an about day-to-day footing As yet, it ‘s impossible to be certain what he was making or what he hoped to accomplish. Nor can we be sue whether these experiments Suenced his work as an applied scientist and scientist. However. there is grounds to propose that Reeves believed his psychic probes had wider practical importance. and the notebooks contain teasing mentions to radar. semiconducting material devices and many other topics-not least the development and usage of atomic arms. A beloved image may emerge from a survey of Reeves ‘s documents presently being undertaken with the aid of the Society of Psychical Research. of which Reeves was an active member.
Alec Reeves died of lung malignant neoplastic disease on I3
October 1971. He was. by any step, an
uncommon adult male. whose alone character
is possibly best captured in the testimonial of
Frank Metcalfe. an Oboe accountant and
former Bomber pilot. ‘A lovely, lovely
moony adult male, ‘ is Metcalfe ‘s finding of fact on
Reeves. ‘He had an imaginative head
and you felt it when you were in his
presence. He was n’t cuckoo-just