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Marconi Society Honors Mark Jacobs and Jack Keil Wolf


In its announcement of the 2011 Marconi Prize winners, the Marconi Society outlined the history of the two award winners, Mark Jacobs and Jack Keil Wolf. Jacobs is best known as co-founder and CEO (and later as chairman) of Qualcomm. The company's first successful product was a satellite communications and tracking system for the trucking industry. Even though he was the CEO, Jacobs did the actual antenna design. Wolf worked in the field of information and coding theory, but unfortunately died shortly after his selection for the prize.

The Marconi Society recognizes individuals "whose scope of work and influence emulate the principle of 'creativity in service to humanity' that inspired Marconi." The Marconi Prize, award by the society, is considered "the pinnacle honor in the field of communication and information science."

One of the themes in the announcement's history of Jacobs' career is that experts and advisors were often wrong when it came to Jacob's work. You can read about them in the announcement, but I'll mention one here--CDMA. As Jacobs recalled, "Some said our capacity claims for CDMA violated the laws of physics and that it would never really work. Again, so much for advice." He persevered at proving the superiority of CDMA, and ultimately it became the standard for all third generation cellular worldwide.

Roberto Padovani, Qualcomm's executive VP and CTO, said Jacobs' contributions were "fundamental to the technical and commercial success of CDMA technology. Undoubtedly, he has played a key role in the establishment of CDMA as the foundation of third-generation cellular systems or 3G, which have now reached one billion global subscribers," for voice and mobile broadband Internet access.

Reading through the announcement made me realize how much of the technology we take for granted today was made possible by the work of people such as Mark Jacobs and Jack Keil Wolf. We owe them a lot. Thanks to the Marconi Society for recognizing them.