Note on the Franklin Institute

Benjamin Franklin was delighted with the advances of his time; the lightning rod (his own invention), inoculation for smallpox, the steam engine, flying (manned balloons), etc., and he yearned to see the developments of the future. In a letter to a French scientist, he expressed the wish that he might be awakened in a hundred years to observe America's evolution. Franklin also was keenly interested in experiments in resuscitating persons apparently "dead" from drowning or electrocution. [slighly adapted from here.]

The Franklin Institute therefore arranges various awards to promote scientific endeavour, thus promoting and honouring the developments of the future.

Press Release by the Franklin Institute Concerning the Award of its Stuart Ballentine Medal

PHILADELPHIA, September 15 [1965] - A major communications invention that made possible pictures from Mars has won the Stuart Ballantine Medal of The Franklin Institute for its author, scientist Alec Harley Reeves of a British affiliate of International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, it was announced here today.

The invention, a highly efficient means of sending information, called Pulse Code Modulation, was used by Mariner IV to transmit television pictures from Mars to Earth.

Presentation of the award will be made at The Franklin Institute's Medal Day ceremonies October 20th, by Institute president Dr. Wynn Laurence LePage.

Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) is already widely used commercially in this country for sending telephone calls and eventually most telephone calls may be sent by the method. It enables a telephone call, a television picture or other electric communication to be sliced into electronic pieces or "bits." These can be sent extremely long distances over wires and cables or by radio with very little distortion and reconstructed into the original message or picture at the receiving end. Mr. Reeves' invention also enables many conversations to be sent in "bits" over a single line simultaneously. It has great superiority in overcoming noise compared to other methods.

Mr. Reeves is a scientist at ITT's Standard Telephones and Cables Limited, London He originated the method 25 years ago while working at a Paris, France laboratory of ITT, The concept was far ahead of its time. It is only now, with the advent of transistor devices, that science has caught up and it has become possible to use PCM economically.

The Franklin Institute, founded in 1824, is a private organization dedicated to the furtherance of human knowledge through programs of education and research in the physical sciences and engineering, The medal, named after noted U. S. scientist, Stuart Ballantine, is awarded for "outstanding achievements in the fields of communication-"

The invention for which Mr- Reeves received the award marked a return to a concept of digital voice transmission which predated Alexander Graham Bell's discovery by 40 years- Prior to 1876, scientists had tried to "telegraph" music and speech, but failed. Bell's successful idea was to produce an undulating electric current varying directly as the voice varies.

Recently, Mr, Reeves estimated the future impact of PCM on communications. He foresees that by the year 2000, we may well be a nation of "stay-at-homes," because of greatly larger populations and a transportation problem that may require executives to handle business by phone, since it will be impracticable for them to commute.

This, plus ever-increasing amounts of literature, will require the establishment of information centers with which each individual has communication. By 2000 A.D., Mr. Reeves suggests, we will be transmitting intellect and information, not transporting bodies and books.

He also believes that by the turn of the century, the major portion of our communications will be by pictures -television -- transmitted in a still-to-be developed system of light beams sent through pipes, the light carrying the message in the form of his pulse code modulation.

Alec H. Reeves was born in 1902 in Redhill Surrey. In 1921 he graduated from the Imperial College of London University with the equivalent of a B.S. in Engineering He joined the International Western Electric Company (the parent company of Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd.) where he worked on the original transatlantic radiotelephone system. From 1940 to 1945 he worked for the Royal Air Force on radio-countermeasure systems and on guidance hand accurate bombing systems.

Since 1946 he has been with a British laboratory of ITT where he is doing advanced circuit development.