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Restoration of Alan Turing’s Preferred Interception Receiver – AR-88

October 13, 2017 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Co-sponsored by: IEEE New Jersey Coast

Come out to hear Joe Jesson and Jonathan Allen speak about the RCA AR-88, a receiver that was vital in capturing German messages during WWII. Jesson will describe the genesis of this best-of-breed interception receiver initiated by David Sarnoff’s product leadership in order to exceed allied design and production requirements. What makes this interception receiver world-class and of interest to TCNJ engineering students? What were the Y- stations which were operated by Ham Radio operators and specially trained house-wives? How was German wireless traffic intercepted and followed by Y-station (mostly women operators), traffic location analyzed (Gordon Welchman pioneered) and traffic decrypted (Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman)? In addition, Jonathan Allen will speak about the detailed design of the AR-88 and report on his excellent progress he has made in his restoration work at the Sarnoff Museum on the TCNJ Campus.


Restoration of Alan Turing’s Preferred Interception Receiver, the RCA AR-88; RCA’s greatest communications receiver

Abstract – During WWII, the interception of German encrypted wireless communication by Britain’s many Y-stations where operators, listening to banks of RCA AR-88 receivers, provided the captured encrypted messages in order for Bletchley Park to then process these messages into plaintext. Messages to be decrypted were handed to Alan Turing’s – of the movie’s Imitation Game fame – Hut 8 team at Bletchley Park. Often overshadowed by the truly great Alan Turing, the unsung heroes I found were the intercept, or Y-station, operators, Gordon Welchman (Hut 6), and David Sarnoff and Joe will explain how their ground-breaking methods have been adopted by today’s NSA!

Joe will describe the design requirements issued from RCA’s David Sarnoff to his engineering team where he issued tough-and-expensive specifications and production delivery demands. RCA production was focused in Camden, NJ but the international WWII partner (Soviet, British, and Canadian) demand was handled by RCA’s Export Sales under Charles Roberts in Camden, New Jersey. Joe will discuss the design requirements through winning through performance and contrast the AR-88 receiver with the competitive receiver,of its day, e.g. National;s HRO. Jonathan Allen will speak about his excellent progress he has made in his restoration work at the Sarnoff Museum on the TCNJ Campus.

Finally, Joe asked his TCNJ Electronics Lab students, as a final Lab project, to compare a SPICE RF bandpass AR-88 filter simulation with a vacuum tube SPICE library model derived from modifying a (biased) FET amplifier model. He will show these results generated by our Lab students. As a third-generation New Jersey native researching WWII communications, I was proud of the leadership shown by David Sarnoff and the multiple (estimated at 2) year reduction of the duration of WWII by the great work at Bletchley Park.

Speaker(s): Joe Jesson, Jonathan Allen

Room: 201
Bldg: Roscoe West
2000 Pennington Rd
Ewing, New Jersey


October 13, 2017
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

IEEE Region 1 Website