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Publication Date: 06/1/2007
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IPC Marks 50 Year Milestone: A Historical Perspective

APEX 2007, in addition to being held in downtown Los Angeles for the first and last time, had something special: a reception and dinner to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the IPC, as well as the beginnings of the printed circuit industry. Never before, perhaps, have so many key individuals who have played key roles in the development of the printed circuit manufacturing industry been gathered together under one roof, in one room, since the beginnings of the industry and IPC in 1957.

Attendance was over 400 for an evening of socializing, reminiscing, and a dinner marked by presentations that blended both memories and humor from across the years. Posted in the reception area was a large poster print of a letter from California Governor Arnold Scwarzenegger, congratulating IPC on its 50th anniversary and wishing it another 50 years of success. The printed circuit industry did, after all, have many of its early roots in California.

IPC Founders
IPC founders and past presidents were there, including Ray Pritchard, Bob Swiggett, James Donaghy, Ron Underwood, Sam Altschuler, Hall of Fame recipient Bernie Kessler, Peter Murphy, Dieter Bergman, Marvin Larson, Vern Solberg, and many others. IPC began in 1957 in conjunction with the birth of a new industry. Etched printed wiring was emerging as a new technology. Independent PWB manufacturers recognized the significance of this technology and, anticipating what lay ahead, held several meetings to discuss ideas for promoting the growth of their new industry.

Representatives from six of the major independent PWB manufacturers met in Chicago in the fall of 1957 to officially form a trade association they identified as the "The Institute of Printed Circuits". At this meeting, they hired Ray Pritchard to serve as Executive Director and outlined a number of key objectives. The first was to promote an awareness of the attributes of PWBs versus hand wiring; the second was to develop standards and specifications to provide believable yardsticks for manufacturers and users to move forward in utilizing products of the new industry. The third was to provide a variety of forums where the industry could exchange information on the technology; and the fourth was to provide the industry with meaningful statistical data on the market and cost studies. Participants in the founding meeting of the IPC were Al Hughes, Electralab; Robert Swiggett, Photocircuits; William McGinley, Methode; Dick Zens, Printed Electronics Corporation; Carl Clayton, Tingstol; Ray Pritchard, thereafter named the Executive Director of the IPC; Gene Jones, Printed Electronics Corporation; and George Hart and Stewart Fansteel, Graphik Circuits Division of United Carr.

After introductory remarks by IPC President Denny McGuirk, IPC Past President Herb Pollack, 1984-86, introduced each speaker from the podium. Pollack joined Sanders Associates, a New Hampshire military/aerospace company, in 1965 to manage several divisions of the company. "One of these divisions was the Flexprint Division, and was my first introduction to printed circuits, having been recruited out of the microwave test instrumentation industry" he recalls. "I was intrigued by the potential for flexible wiring technology, particularly with the advent of the new material. I left in 1970 to start my own company, Parlex Corporation."

World of "Rat's Nest" Wiring
In order to appreciate just how significant a moment that was, it is necessary to understand the nature of the world and technology back then. Although we live in a world surrounded by electronic devices and gadgets of every sort, all of which owe their origins to the development of the printed circuit board, there were no such products back then.

Herb Pollack introduced the first speaker, Bob Swiggett, who recalled that "Electronics was dead after the war (WWII) and the only consumer electronics business was radios, 5-tube, AC/DC radios," he said. "Television had not come into its own yet. Telephones and the telephone switching systems were entirely electromechanical. IBM didn't have a single vacuum tube — it was generally believed that in the event of another war, there simply would not be enough people available to wire up electronics, point to point wiring, so people were looking for ways to auto-assemble circuits. Nobody had heard of a transistor in 1948 or 49. It was an analog world — completely."

The first printed circuit boards left much to be desired. Ralph Robinson, formerly a circuit board manufacturer from the San Jose area, recalls that in 1956, "We had a small shop to build boards, but to be honest, they had little success. The materials that we had to work with were not very good. For example, I think that, at the time, the copper foil was attached to the board material using rubber cement, or something similar. Everything was experimental. Board materials were paper/phenolic." Robinson's recollections are included in From Vacuum Tubes to Nanotubes: An Amazing Half Century - The Emergence of Electronic Circuit Technology 1957-2007, a book commissioned by IPC In honor of IPC's 50th anniversary to commemorate the pioneers of the electronics interconnection industry and the progress of IPC. Download a PDF of the seven-chapter book at

Bob Swiggett was in a meeting with some engineers at Texas Instruments, who were finding that there was potential for printed circuits being an easier way to make multiple connections than point to point wiring. Swiggett recalls one of the engineers saying, in deep Texas drawl, "I think we ought to pick this thing up and run with it."

Exec Director for 35 Years
Herb Pollack introduced the second speaker as "The man behind the successful birth and growth of IPC for the first thirty-five years," and a personal friend for many years, Raymond E. Pritchard. Ray served as IPC's Executive Director for 35 years, and in 1982 became the third recipient of IPC's Hall of Fame Award. Ray retired as Executive Director Emeritus in 1992, on the occasion of IPC's 35th anniversary, and his 35 years of service. He remains occasionally involved and always interested in the organization and the industry that it serves.

Ray Pritchard always likes to tell how his first association with IPC happened merely by chance. The founders, who wanted to start a trade organization but who had no clue how to manage one, essentially stumbled into the office of Ray and his boss, Harry Dolan, who were managing other trade associations, including the Investment Casting Institute. Neither had heard of printed circuits or the existence of the industry. As Pritchard recalls, "In 1952, I went to work for Harry Dolan, who operated a trade association management company. When I joined him, Harry managed three small industry associations. I went to work for him when he was in the process of signing up a new fourth group: the Investment Casting Institute. Five years later, in 1957, two fellows walked into our office: Bill McGinley from Methode and Gene Jones from Electralab. Harry was out of the office on an errand at the time, and I happened to be available. They were meeting next door at the Palmer House in Chicago, trying to organize IPC. They realized they needed professional help, so they opened the yellow pages and our firm was in the building right next door. I went next door to meet with their group, and told them and showed them what we were doing for the Investment Casting Institute. It consisted of many programs that fitted their needs: industry standards; industry promotion; statistical and market studies; and technical meetings. They recognized these were the kinds of programs they needed, and saw we had the knowledge and experience to make them work. We shook hands and we were their new managers. It was that simple."

Pritchard recalled the conversation with his boss, Harry Dolan, later. Dolan asked Pritchard what he had been doing while he was out.

"I just signed up another industry association" he replied. Dolan, surprised, countered, "Why did you do that? We can't handle the ones that we have already! So, what do they do?"

"They make printed circuit boards."

"What the heck is a printed circuit board?"

"Damn if I know."

"Well, do they have any money?"


Pritchard noted that the meeting "Was one of the most important days of my life. Indeed, it made my life."

Other fine presentations were made by Bernie Kessler; Marv Larson; Jerry Siegmund, Dieter Bergman; Thom Dammrich; Dan Feinberg; Leo Reynolds, regarding the growth of the EMS industry; Jack Calderon, with closing remarks by Denny McGuirk. McGuirk expressed gratitude to the founders of IPC, and described how the four original goals of IPC set forth at the 1957 meeting "have been met, expanded, and exceeded." He outlined a positive outlook and vision for the next fifty years, driven by global communications, challenges, and technologies unimaginable back in the mid-1950s.

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