July 2017

Last month we went to IMS 2017 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Our entire team attended this year because everyone decided they wanted to "help with the booth". Funny, there weren't many volunteers when IMS was held one summer in Phoenix, Arizona. For those of you who couldn't make it, here's some of the highlights.

I have two thoughts about this.  First, does anyone like it when someone you barely know tries to show you pictures from a recent trip or vacation, when you had to stay home? On the other hand, who else if going to tell you honestly what it is like to attend a conference  for 12 hours a day in Hawaii? 

Below, one of the natives is holding a conch shell (which you can't see) which he used to signal the opening of the microwave exhibits. Back in the day a large back tattoo would seem more exotic, today it is just like any trip to the beach!


The first event we attended as a group was the opening reception on Monday night. Note the lovely kukui nut leis provided by our friends over at Keysight.


There was lots of delicious food, plenty of drinks, and entertainment provided by local hula dancers.  This next photo was taken by the IMS official photographer Lyle Photos, and came out much better than our twilight cellphone camera snapshots.  You can check out all the official photos at 


Let's talk about some microwave "themes" of the conference:  a few observations from someone that spent much more time in the exhibits than at technical talks.

  • The official theme was 5G.  But if ask people what 5G means, you get a mixed response, as no one really knows what direction it is heading.
  • One technology that seems to have exploded is 3D fabrication.  Manufacturing systems and applications are getting more sophisticated, if you have't paid attention, the research is passing you by.
  • A new form of interconnect shows great promise: Air-filled substrate integrated waveguide is a relatively low-cost way to route signals with very low loss. We have a page on SIW, but we need one on AFSIW.

Earlier on Monday, NC State University Professor David Ricketts gave a Short Course called "From Bits to Waves: Building a Modern Digital Radio in 1 Day". Students in this course got to design and simulate their own radio components which included a power amplifier, antenna, and power divider, then actually create and test them (via something called the "PCP in a bag method").  If you get a chance, take this class yourself sometime, and bring a manager so he/she can get a taste of what we call "Microwave Stockholm Syndrome"!


We stopped by right as they were running tests on a one of those new-fangled VNAs you plug into the USB port of a laptop. From what we could see, this design (and the class) was a huge success! Unlike the success of our camera...


The exhibit hall boasted over 450 vendor booths, the MicroApps area, a STEM program for middle school and high school students, plus even more local entertainment including some very colorful (and loud) drummers. 


Once again, Microwaves101 and everythingRF shared a booth. This combination actually makes a lot of sense. You can learn about history, rules of thumb, calculations, design techniques, and more at, then find the components that meet your design specs with the search engine over at


We also shared the booth with a full-sized banner of Microwave Man! Yes, he's real (as real as comic book super heros get) and no, we didn't make him up.  Microwave Man was a villain in DC Comics Action Comics issues from September and October 1978, when he was able to actually beat Superman with his "micromatic" powers. If DC comics calls about the trademark, we will rename our guy RF man and claim that is a typo on his costume.


Our drawing prize this year was a pair of the vintage comic books, where the September 1978 issue recounted Microwave Man's origin story, and the October 1978 issue held the epic battle.  The winner declined to be photographed, so some of his colleagues stepped in for the photo.  They are clearly fans of Microwave Man! Thanks, guys.


The MicroApps area hosted a bunch of presentations, but by far our favorite was the talk about James Clerk Maxwell  and the "Maxwellians", by Dr. James Rautio, founder of Sonnet Software.  He even had a "ghost" show up!

maxwellghost small

We had a great time, as always, at the National Instruments Appreciation reception. This year, instead of a bowling alley, they held the event at the Honolulu Hard Rock Cafe. None of the pictures we took are safe for work.  Put another way, we didn't take any pictures.

Another event we always enjoy is the Women in Microwaves reception. They did things a little bit differently this year, and for the first part of the event, they only allowed men to come into the reception if they were escorted by a woman. That keeps the "lonely engineer count" more manageable.


They had an ice-breaker game that was kind of like bingo, except each square had a quality or experience on it (for examples. "has PhD" or "works in the medical industry") and you had to get a (woman) attendee who met the description to sign each square. It was a lot of fun getting to know some amazing women! The prizes were cool, too, including lots of Hawaiian chocolate. As the picture below shows, working at Northrop Grumman in Baltimore opens a lot of opportunities for women to work in microwaves, with further support for attending conferences.  How about some other Big Companies step up the game?


A lovely rainbow on our last day. Photo taken by the infinity pool an the Sheraton, Waikiki Beach.


We had two hotel rooms... with two different views. One was paid for by the Day Job, one was not.  Critical thinking exercise, which one did Steve pay for?

ViewFromOTHERBalcony ViewFromBalcony

Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

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