Power Electronics

30 Years: A Look Back and Ahead

As you flip through the pages of this issue, you'll notice something new. Or perhaps, you may think, something “old.” That's because, in addition to our usual features, we've added a special section to kick off our celebration of the magazine's 30th anniversary. In “Celebrating 30 Years of Coverage,” you'll find articles discussing some of the developments that have taken place in the power electronics field since this magazine was launched in 1975 under the name Solid-State Power Conversion.

Some of the products discussed in this section are indeed old and may even be obsolete. Nevertheless, these products provide valuable milestones of how various component technologies and design practices have changed over the last 30 years. For some readers, these articles will provide a trip down memory lane and a reminder of the history they have been a part of. For others who are newer to the field, the stories told here may fill in some of the blanks on how power electronics has reached its present state of the art.

The first feature in this special section chronicles the development of a particular component sector. In this issue, the spotlight will be on passive components. In “Despite Designers' Best Efforts, Passives Persevere” (page 49), we'll examine how resistors and capacitors have evolved since the mid-1970s and analyze the impact of these developments on power supply design.

A second feature in this section, “Then and Now,” revisits some of the power products that were introduced three decades ago in these pages. Descriptions of bipolar transistors, linear regulators and switching power supplies that were the latest thing back “then” seem primitive contrasted with the MOSFETs, switching regulators and high-density power supplies that are available “now.” In some cases, the improvement in a key specification has been a few or — for components like MOSFESTs — even several orders of magnitude. But in many ways, these older devices inspired the development of the newer components as vendors searched for ways to build smaller, more powerful and more efficient components in response to their customers' application requirements.

These special features will be appear in each issue through October. Subsequent installments of “Then and Now” will discuss other product developments from the 1975 issues of Solid-State Power Conversion. The feature on component evolution also will continue by highlighting a different product area in each issue. In the August issue, the topic will be magnetic components; in September, discrete semiconductors; and in October, power ICs.

A special thanks goes out to Myron Miller, the founder/publisher of Solid-State Power Conversion and the magazine's publisher through its years as Power Conversion and Intelligent Motion, and later PCIM Power Electronic Systems. Miller provided those hard-to-find issues of the magazine (How many of you readers still have copies?), which were critical to the development of our anniversary section articles.

These special sections in the next few issues will set the stage for our November anniversary issue, in which we will expand our discussion to assess the impact of key technological developments and industry players. In honor of the anniversary, we'll rank the Top 30 technical milestones and Top 30 companies that have helped shape the power electronics field since the first issue of Solid-State Power Conversion rolled off the presses. And while much of the information will be retrospective, the Anniversary issue will also give us an opportunity to look ahead and ponder the future of power electronics design. One of the features in the November anniversary issue will discuss the current development paths of the various component areas and will suggest where these paths may lead.

Though we have to tread cautiously when making any long-term predictions about technology, we can be reasonably certain that many of the trends discussed in our special anniversary sections will continue well into the future. And while we take the occasion of our 30th anniversary to reflect on the past, we also look forward, eager to inform our readers about whatever developments in power electronics may unfold in the years to come.

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