EMC Personality Profile

Introducing John Howard
John Howard started down the path toward a career in EMC by earning the license to play as a radio amateur in 1957. While others in his high school were pursuing more ordinary activities, he was busily creating interference with neighborhood television sets. The dutiful correction of these interference incidents provided a bountiful learning experience relating to EMI. Throughout high school John worked as a radio repair technician for a local radio repair shop in Chico, California. This work contributed real “hands on” experience with electronics in general.

After pursuing numerous character building experiences following high school, John enlisted in the US Air Force in March 1960. During the latter part of basic training, he completed a comprehensive written examination designed to screen candidates for an Air Force paid education and officer training program. He scored within the top 200 and was therefore invited to join the program. This led to his matriculation as an undergraduate electrical engineering student at Oklahoma State University in the fall of 1963. Unfortunately, John didn’t complete the program, but did complete 93 semester hours of undergraduate work during the 18 months at OSU. After completion of military service in 1967 (including a tour of duty in South Viet Nam) John returned to OSU to finish his EE degree.

John married in 1965 and by the time of his return to OSU he was a father as well as a husband. He graduated with a BSEE in 1969 and, due to better grades during the second visit to OSU, was invited to enter graduate school there. John completed the MSEE degree in June 1970 and elected to leave academia. By this time, a second daughter had arrived and the seductive siren call of a high paying job in industry persuaded him into postponing pursuit of the PhD degree until some later time. As often happens, the later time never arrived.

John was employed by Honeywell Information Systems in San Diego from June 1970 until the demise of the division in November 1971. This was a golden opportunity to learn the internal workings of electronic design and manufacturing. He reluctantly left San Diego (where the weather is awesome) and moved with his family to Silicon Valley to work with the Microwave Division of Hewlett-Packard (HP). When the Microwave Division of HP moved from Palo Alto to Santa Rosa in 1973, John transferred to the central research lab division of HP so he could remain in Palo Alto. He transferred from HP Labs to work as a production engineer for the Terminals Division of HP in 1975. He felt that exposure to the problems associated with the actual manufacturing of sophisticated electronic products would be quite valuable. It was. John left the manufacturing environment to join the R&D Lab environment by joining the Computer Division of HP in November of 1977. For the next few years his work increasingly involved the solution of various hardware EMI and EMC problems. He remained in this capacity until leaving the company in April of 1982.

John joined Four Phase Systems in Cupertino, California just as Four Phase was being purchased by Motorola. His job at Four Phase was to manage their safety and EMC compliance efforts. His successful EMC work with Four Phase was recognized by the parent company Motorola, which led to a sideline position of chairing an EMC planning committee for the entire Motorola Corporation. The task of this committee was to anticipate future trends in the EMC regulatory environment so that Motorola could be best positioned to accommodate those trends.

John left Four Phase in October of 1985 to join Southwall Technologies, a small research company in Palo Alto. He was the sole Electrical Engineer in the company and as the Director of Electronic Products Development was tasked with developing shielding products using wide web thin film technology developed by Southwall. Southwall produced windows (for buildings, not Microsoft) that were reasonably transparent visually but moderately opaque to much of the electromagnetic spectrum. One company interested in this technology was Lockheed Missiles and Space Company.

John left Southwall in February 1987 and joined the Research and Development division of Lockheed in Palo Alto, a part of the famous Lockheed “Skunk Works.” For the next three years he managed an anechoic chamber test facility and participated in research projects to develop low radar cross section technology. This time spent in the deep security “black world” of military defense technology was a world away from the previous environment of commercial product development.

John left Lockheed and returned to the commercial world in August 1990 by joining Tandem Computers as Advisory Engineer. This position involved assisting the varied product development teams in achieving EMC compliance with minimum cost and pain. Tandem downsizing provided John with the opportunity to try EMC consulting in 1992. His consulting work was quite satisfying but he was persuaded to rejoin a company after only six months. John became a Senior Staff Scientist for Parallan Computer from July 1992 until the company failed in April 1994. His EMC expertise was well exercised at Parallan as their high performance server products all met Class B at the first test. The demise of Parallan again left John with the life of EMC consulting, where he has remained until the present.

John joined the IEEE while a student at OSU in 1969 under unusual circumstances. One of his professors submitted a term paper to the IEEE that he had written as part of the student paper contest. John won the paper contest along with a small monetary prize. After the award presentation they discovered that he didn’t belong to the IEEE. Therefore, a condition of accepting the prize money was that he spend it by joining the IEEE. He has been a member of the IEEE since then and a member of the EMC Society since 1982.

John has been active in several areas of the EMCS. He served a two-year term as Secretary of the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the EMCS from 1989 until 1991. He subsequently served one-year terms as Treasurer, Vice Chair, and Chair during the following three years. During his service in 1992 as Vice Chair he initiated a program to provide a grant to San Francisco State University (under the direction of Professor Zorica Pantic-Tanner) to start an undergraduate EMC class at SFSU. The success of this venture led to another grant later to San Jose State University, also led by Dr. Pantic-Tanner who was willing to commute from San Francisco to San Jose to teach this evening class.

These events led to a proposal by John to establish the University Grant subcommittee (under the Education Committee) in the EMC Society. The University Grant program has been continuously supported by the Board of Directors since inception and has been responsible for creating an EMC class in the curriculum of over seven universities around the world. This is an ongoing program to offer seed money as a one-time grant to a new university each year to ensure that new EE graduates will have some familiarity with EMC.

John is currently involved with another aspect of the EMC Society. He is chairman of the organizing committee responsible for creating the International Symposium, which will be held in the Silicon Valley during August of 2004. He has assembled an energetic and well-experienced team that has accepted the challenge to make the 2004 Symposium the best ever. The goal for EMC 2004 is to transfer the wealth of technical EMC information to working electrical engineers. Another goal will be to provide an opportunity to attend interesting social events without long lines. At EMC 2004, the emphasis will be placed on emerging technologies such as wi-fi, as well as peripherally related disciplines such as product safety. All are encouraged to visit http://www.emc2004.org for further information. Plan on attending the symposium.

On the personal side, John is very involved with several sideline activities. He has been a general aviation pilot since 1968. Over the years he has earned all of the airplane ratings including Airline Transport Pilot. He earned flight instructor ratings for both single and multi-engine airplanes, as well as instrument flying. He has owned and flown a Beechcraft Bonanza since 1973. For several years he also owned a twin engine Beechcraft Baron. This he found to be a marvelously efficient method in which to dissipate money! He helped himself with the financial aspects of airplane ownership by earning the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics rating from the FAA in 1977 so that he could perform aircraft maintenance himself.

John is also involved with some purely social organizations – more so now that he is no longer married. He is a life member of Mensa and an assistant to the Human Awareness Institute. John is a NARTE certified EMC Engineer, a member of the dB Society, and a Senior Member of the IEEE. John is also member of Eta Kappa Nu, the honorary Electrical Engineering Society. EMC


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