Midway through last night’s lecture featuring Dr. Irwin Jacobs ’56, the Qualcomm CEO snapped a picture of himself with a cellular phone. During his presentation of the new device, Jacobs paused, pressed a button and moments later his color image appeared on the phone’s display panel.
The camera phone — which is already available in Japan — was one of many wireless innovations previewed by Jacobs in front of packed audience in Philips Hall during his presentation, “The Third Generation: Wireless Communications and Beyond.” Jacobs gave the audience a glimpse of the new chip technology currently in development at Qualcomm, the San Diego based telecommunications company he founded in July 1985.
The company is best known for pioneering Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), the technology used in wireless networks and handsets all over the world.
As part of the Distinguished Lecture Centennial Series, sponsored by the Cornell branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Jacobs briefly traced the development of communications technology from the first generation of analog equipment to the wireless revolution of the past several years.
After pulling the camera phone from his suit jacket, Jacobs discussed new cellular phones with the capacity for video, internet and navigational capabilities.
“Now that we are getting phones with a lot of memory capacity and access to the internet, what do we want to put on them?” Jacobs asked, before outlining some of Qualcomm’s current projects.
Jacobs spoke of integrating cellular networks with the Global Positioning System (GPS), a worldwide radio navigation system formed from a constellation of satellites. The incorporation of GPS technology would allow for faster 911 responses to cell phone users, as well as downloadable maps and directions, according to Jacobs.
“Your phone will be like the navigator in your car very quickly,” he said.
The introduction of new wireless technology is never easy, however, according to Jacobs. Noting that many of the latest innovations are only available in South Korea and Japan, he discussed the challenges involved in making new wireless technology commercially viable as well as making it compatible with existing network infrastructure.
“The phones themselves need to be smart enough to use whatever technology is available from your favorite provider,” he said. “The phone should do it and you should not be able to notice.”
Jacobs founded Qualcomm in 1985 with no particular product in mind but with a general interest in digital and wireless technologies. The company was ranked 545 on the 2002 Fortune 500 list, and in 2000, that magazine referred to Qualcomm as the “Intel of the wireless era,” based on its innovations in chip technology for mobile devices.
“I love wireless technology and we had one of the founders of wireless technology here with us today,” said Jason Jones JGSM ’05. “He’s amazing and he gave an informative presentation.”
Jason Kwan ’04 also commented on Jacobs’ influence in the industry.
“It was interesting to hear about cell phone technology from an authority on the subject,” he said. “It gave me a good perspective of what is actually coming along in wireless compared to what is being hyped in the media.”
Archived article by Jason Leff