PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Robert G. Fulks, an inventor who developed the first automatic measuring instrument for measuring electrical parameters has been named the recipient of the 2008 IEEE Joseph F. Keithley Award in Instrumentation and Measurement. His work has improved the efficiency and reduced the cost of system and component manufacturing. The IEEE is the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology.
The award, sponsored by Keithley Instruments, Incorporated, recognizes Fulks for pioneering developments in automated measurements. The award will be presented to Fulks on 14 May 2008 at the 2008 IEEE International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference in Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Fulks’ accomplishments made a large impact in the field of electronics test measurements and are considered by many to be the seeds for what are now major segments of the testing sector. Many of these systems were used by major computer companies, as well as the U.S. Navy, to test and repair circuit boards at field repair sites, on ships and in submarines.
Fulks joined the General Radio Company (GenRad) in 1959 where he developed the first automatically balancing bridge for precise measurement of capacitance, an important parameter of electronic components. This was accomplished by using digital logic circuits. This opened the door to the creation of many other automatic test systems including those that could quickly measure and record values in various digital formats for use in more complex systems including those controlled by a digital computer.
He went on to develop the first commercial system for the testing of printed circuit board (PCB) assemblies containing complex digital logic circuits. The use of PCB assemblies led to the implementation of software logic simulators to create programs for these assemblies, thereby greatly reducing manufacturing costs. The increased productivity that these systems provided substantially increased GenRad’s growth rate and eventually transformed the company into a major supplier of automatic test equipment.
After leaving GenRad in 1973, he went on to become a co-founder of Omnicomp, Inc., which provided portable systems for testing PCB assemblies in field service applications.
Fulks is a former chairman of the IEEE committee that developed the popular HPIB (IEEE-488) instrumentation interface standard. He was also a former chair of the Boston Section of the IEEE group on instrumentation and measurement, which later became an IEEE Society. He also is the former chairman of the Advanced Automatic Test Equipment Concepts committee for the U.S. Navy. He obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959.
Filed Under: Test + measurement • test equipment