In the first days of broadcast radio in the first half of the twentieth century, Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) was dealt with by government authorities by reducing the power of one transmitter so it didn’t interfere with another licensed broadcast territory. The term “RFI” continued to be used to describe interference problems between equipment until around the 1960s when the term “EMC” began to be popular.
Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) defined the successful operation of equipment in its environment including radiated disturbances, conducted disturbances, electrostatic discharges, and similar phenomena. The EMC Society was initially the Professional Group on Radio Frequency Interference and changed its name to the Professional Group on EMC in 1963. So, over the years since 1963, the term RFI became less popular and fell out of favor.
But, now, RFI is coming back because of the proliferation of wireless devices and wireless technologies, both licensed and unlicensed. In today’s context, RFI is frequently used to refer to the interference from the radios in complex cellular phones, laptop computers, and similar devices. Engineers are now concerned with the interference potential of electronic circuitry within a device to the radios within the device and vice-versa. So, RFI started as a term defining interference between separate devices but is now increasingly being used to describe intra-system interference from small but powerful radio technologies.
So, we welcome back the resurgence of the term “RFI” in a new context.
Dan Hoolihan
January 2007

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