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2010 IEEE Medal of Honor for Viterbi


IEEE Life Fellow Andrew J. Viterbi, whose Viterbi algorithm is used in all four international standards for digital cellular telephones, as well as data terminals and digital satellite broadcast receivers, will be presented with the IEEE Medal of Honor at the 2010 IEEE Honors Ceremony. This year's event will be held on June 26 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

In 1985, Viterbi cofounded Qualcomm with Irwin Jacobs and helped develop Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology, which applied spread spectrum to cellular phones. Viterbi's contributions to communications technology have impacted the lives of people throughout the world. There is a Viterbi detector in practically every disk drive and high-capacity MP3 player, images transmitted from deep space are made possible by the Viterbi algorithm, and third-generation mobile telephones employ one or more of Viterbi's systems.

Viterbi developed what became known as the Viterbi Algorithm in 1967 while a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Viterbi Algorithm was a breakthrough in wireless technology that separated information (voice and data) from background noise, and it fundamentally changed the way digital communications are processed. The algorithm is used in most digital cellular phones and satellite receivers as well as in such diverse fields as magnetic recording, voice recognition, and DNA sequence analysis. It also has been incorporated into all NASA deep-space spacecraft since the 1970s.

Viterbi’s vision and technical leadership at Qualcomm pioneered the revolutionary CDMA system for mobile communications. Utilizing spread-spectrum technology, CDMA allows many users to occupy the same time and frequency allocations. It provides more efficient use of power and bandwidth, enables more calls in the same geographic region and emits a lower level of radiated power in the phone/device. It became the standard for third-generation cellular phones due in large part to Viterbi’s efforts.

Viterbi began his career in 1957 at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped design the first successful U.S. satellite (Explorer I). After retiring from Qualcomm in 2000, he founded the Viterbi Group, which invests in startup companies in the wireless communications and network infrastructure sectors.

An IEEE Life Fellow, Viterbi holds memberships in the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received the National Medal of Science in 2008 from U.S. President George W. Bush as well as several IEEE awards and honors from other international organizations. The University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, renamed its school of engineering the Viterbi School of Engineering in 2004. Viterbi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and a doctorate from USC. He is currently president of the Viterbi Group, San Diego, Calif., and also holds the titles of Presidential Chair Visiting Professor at USC and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Technion, Haifa, Israel.

Past IEEE Medal of Honor winners include William Shockley, Robert Noyce, Jack Kilby, and Gordon Moore.


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