Historically Speaking

The IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S) is a transnational professional society with more than 10,500 members and about 200 chapters worldwide. This society promotes the advancement of microwave theory and its applications, including RF, microwave, millimeter-wave, and terahertz technologies. The International Microwave Symposium (IMS) is the flagship conference of the MTT-S and is held annually in North America.

The MTT-S evolved from a professional group under the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) and was established in early 1952. For more than 64 years, the MTT-S has worked to advance the professional standing of its members and enhance the quality of life for all people through the development and application of microwave technology. After the Second World War, a need was felt in organizing the activity in this field which played a vital role in communication, navigation, and radar fields. This group was called Professional Group on Microwave Theory and Techniques (PGMTT).

The PGMTT's first meeting was held in November 1952 in New York and was attended by 210 people.  Ten papers were presented.  However, it was not until 1957 that this meeting started to be held on an annual basis and had multi-subject sessions. In this year, 306 people were registered to attend (registration fees, by the way, were $6), and 23 papers were presented. The tradeshow or exhibit portion of the conference was added much later in 1972. 

The first time the conference occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area, Palo Alto to be exact, was in May of 1958 (chaired by Arthur Aden) and again in Palo Alto in May of 1966 (chaired by Peter Lacy) and May of 1975 (chaired by E.W. Mathews).  1966 (50 years ago) was the first year the conference was referred to as “International Microwave Symposium.”  The name was inconsistently used for a few years but then soon became regular. Since 1984, all IMSs have been held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and have taken place in the years 1984, 1996, 2006 and were chaired by Steve Adam, Jim Crescenzi, and John Barr respectively.

This year is the 59th occurrence of IMS. Yes, IMS has come a long way. For example, this year we have 470 technical papers, 36 workshops and short courses, 85 MicroApps presentations, and a number of panel sessions as well as networking events. During the IEEE Microwave Week, two sister conferences—RFIC and ARFTG—are also being held. The tradeshow this year has broken a number of previous records, for example, we presently have 930 booths occupied by more than 610 exhibitors. We are also expecting greater than 10,000 total attendees including about 3,000 technical sessions attendees.
I consider myself lucky to have had a chance to volunteer as well as present papers at many of the IMSs throughout the years. I remember the joy I felt when I received the acceptance letter for my paper in 1982 (when IMS was held in Dallas). I had just finished my graduate studies in France and would be moving to the US in 1983. As a volunteer, the first IMS in which I participated was in 1987 when IMS was in Las Vegas and was chaired by Steven March. I was a member of the publications committee and was part of the team responsible for preparing the "IMS Digest" book (which no longer exists).  My next IMS participation was in San Francisco in 1996 where I chaired workshops and the focused and special sessions.  I then served as co-chair of the technical-program committee for IMS 2006.  All these experiences were very exciting and educative and enabled me to bid for IMS 2016 as General Chair in 2007.
When I reflect on the past IMSs I volunteered at, I am amazed at how much has changed from 1987 to 2016.  All the manual processes (which resulted in paper everywhere) have been replaced by automated electronic processes, which has made the organization of the conference a lot more efficient and simpler. From paper submission to paper review and forming a program is now all software controlled.  Emails, smart phones and videos are now part of the eco-system.
The evolution of the IMS will continue, and technology will make the user experience continuously richer. I wish all future committee volunteers great success!

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