Reading time ( words)
Editor’s Note: The seventh edition of the Printed Circuits Handbook was published this spring, which was also the 50th anniversary of the first edition. For this issue—“Voices”—we asked the many authors of the handbook for their thoughts—their voices. We asked a few questions to get them started; though not everyone spoke strictly about the handbook, we found their comments interesting and thought-provoking, and we hope you do as well. We begin with a wonderful history of the Handbook by the main man himself, Clyde Coombs.
Clyde Coombs Editor-in-Chief (Chapter 1)
The Printed Circuits Handbook is now in its seventh edition, and we are observing the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first edition. This long-term level of importance in an industry is remarkable, but the need for this book seems obvious today. This is to put the concept of the book into the context of the industry when the first edition was published, and try to explain why there was a book in the first place, and what led to this long string of successful subsequent editions.
Touring a modern, technology- and capital-intensive, highly-automated printed circuit factory of today, supported by a staff of trained specialists, many with advanced degrees in science, engineering and systems, would be a totally different experience than touring a printed circuit shop of 1959. For the most part, those shops were the creation of entrepreneur artisan platers or silk screeners, and the facilities were called “bucket shops” for good reasons. With the exception of IBM, Collins Radio, RCA, and a few others, along with the founding members of IPC, the estimated several thousand shops in the United States (numbers at the time ranged from 4,000 to 7,000) were operated by rules of thumb, years of experience in related trades, and generally considered an art, not a technology.
Shops were divided into two categories: captives, which made boards as a part of a vertically integrated OEM, and independents, which made and sold boards to OEMs that did not make their own. Both categories of shops could be justified since it was generally accepted that it did not take significant technical skill, or a large capital expenditure to start a shop. However, in 1959, the printed circuit world was on the brink of a major revolution that few shops were prepared to cope with, and most shop managers did not understand. The spark for this was the sudden introduction, and swift adoption, of the transistor into electronic devices. As vacuum tubes disappeared, and more functionality was designed onto much smaller boards, there was a sudden need to be able to connect circuits on both sides of a board reliably.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.