Alec Harley Reeves was born on 10 March 1902 at Redhill, in Surrey and went to Reigate Grammar School. At 16, he was admitted under a Governors' Scholarship to the City and Guilds Engineering College. In 1921 he attained its ACGI qualification (equivalent level to BSc), and went to the Imperial College of Science and Technology spending his time there in post graduate research on a cathode ray direction finding system (CRDF), leading to their diploma of DIC. He then joined the International Western Electric Company, and remained with the same firm for nearly the next 50 years. The company changed its name or was taken over several times, but by the end of his career it was Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, part of the international group ITT. [Since his death in 1972 ITT sold its British operations to the British public as Standard Telephones and Cables, which was later bought out by Nortel Networks, a Canadian multinational.]
During his early years with the International Western Electric Company, he spent his time abroad. He was in California for three months then stationed in Paris and various places in Europe, such as Majorca, for eight years. He worked on the original trans-Atlantic radio telephone system, and in 1926 invented a multi-stage aperiodic binary counter.
In the early months of the war he was sent to France to work on radar at the company's Laboratoires Central de Telecommunication of which he was a founder member. Whilst there he invented the following systems:
Single sideband high frequency radio telephone system
Automatic Frequency Control
Circulating delay-line store for digital information
Multiplex telephony by pulse amplitude modulation
Superheterodyne receiver for microwaves
A multi-channel carrier system for UHF radio telephone links.
When France collapsed to the Nazi advance, he made his way to Spain and managed to get a passage home on a coal freighter which was going to Falmouth.
He was then seconded to the Telecommunication Research Establishment at Malvern and worked on radar under Sir Robert Watson-Watt, who is accredited with its invention. He worked with Dr F E Jones, FRS, on the OBOE radar bombing system.
Following that he engaged himself in may projects at STL in Harlow including the equilibrium method of data processing which was applied to PCM encoders. Please do read the section on this invention - in the long term it, and its underlying philosophical implications, may become his most important invention.
Alec Reeves was not completely wrapped up in his work, and was a keen skier and rock climber. During his time in Paris he brefriended and had conversations with the artist Georges Braque concerning the nature of modern art. He also represented STC and STL on the Harlow Sports Trust, and engaged in voluntary social work with young offenders.