Space Challenge To Engineers 50 Years Ago


‘Space Challenge To Engineers – Tribute to British circuit designers’ was a headline in the very first edition of Electronics Weekly produced in 1960, 50 years ago this year.

‘How electronics engineers are meeting the technical challenge of instrumentation in research space vehicles was described by a number of speakers last week at the Rocket and Satellite Instrumentation Symposium, organised by the British Interplanetary Society and The Society of Instrument Technology,’ is how the story starts.



‘Dr A.P.Willmore (UniversityCollege, London) described the instrumentation for the first Anglo-American Scout satellite to be placed in orbit late next year,’ continues the story.


‘In his address he paid a handsome tribute to engineers of Pye and Bristol Aircraft who had produced the circuitry for certain of the experiments’, continues the story, ‘the Pye unit, part of the equipment for measuring electron density and temperature, included waveform generators and amplifiers on two 5½” diameter circular cards, forming a stack 2″ high with a total power consumption of only 60W. Dr Willmore said: “Pye have turned out a fine piece of equipment.”‘



  1. Anonymous, to my mind there was no element of knocking in that piece from an Electronics Weekly of 50 years ago. Quite the contrary, it shows how far back our space pedigree goes.

  2. Aren’t we forgetting that the UK is still one of the world’s top producers of satellites and space hardware for both military and commercial use. Let’s not knock ourselves on things we still can do right.

  3. Good point, Peter Comrie, China’s top seven guys are all engineers and their economy grew 10% in Q4. But would you want to live there?

  4. Yes, but Weinstock’s GEC had £2B in the bank when the real bean counter took over. This was the man that trashed Rover, then he trashed Lucas before doing the same to GEC Marconi. Now we have a hugely reduced industrial base. Tony Blair made him a Lord. We need some engineers in the next parliament – any volunteers?

  5. So true … yet another example of what goes wrong horribly wrong when bean counters take control!

  6. Malcolm, I think HMG, which allowed Weinstock to take over EE and AEI, has much to answer for. Arnie was not keen on either the conputer industry or the semiconductor industry. With him holding so much power over the UK elelctronics industry, both sectors withered.

  7. We were so good back then, also Lyons with the LEO computer, a real classic exercise on how it should be done … where oh where did it all go so horribly wrong??

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