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Journey of the E&ECE Dept. to Golden Jubilee
By S.L. Maskara

When I joined the department in July 1966, both the Department and the Institute were in their mid-teens while I was in my early twenties. This year the Institute is celebrating its Golden Jubilee. I feel overwhelmed that I have stayed here all these years and walked along to witness this mega event. Time has really passed very fast leaving behind pleasant memories.

Growth and Sponsored Research

Ours was a small department then, but today Electronics & Telecommunication is one of the bigger departments of the Institute. Fortunately, the department has kept pace with the rapid developments in the field of Electronics & Telecommunications. We got a larger space and shifted to a new building around 1972 -- from the front and middle second floor of the main building. Many new laboratories have been set up in the department. It offers many M.Tech. specializations. In fact a full fledged new department like the Computer Science & Engineering came up, having origins in the E&ECE Department. G.S. Sanyal School of Telecommunications is another offshoot of the E&ECE Dept.

Sponsored research activities had just started in the early 70s giving us another dimension of work and research atmosphere. The Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) sponsored a huge programme with the establishment of Radar & Communication Centre (RCC) to focus research activities in the defence related areas. It did serve its purpose very well and was merged again with its parent department. Today the department has a large number of sponsored projects.

Despite the locational disadvantage of Kharagpur and minimal infrastructure and facilities, the department continues to occupy a very respectable position internationally. Great Professors like Prof. G.S. Sanyal and Prof. J. Das have contributed immensely to the development of the department. Their work culture, devotion and inspiration have kept the flag of the department very high. I had the privilege of working with such renowned personalities. They have left their deep impressions on many of us.

Changes in Curricula

Since its inception, many students at all levels (B.Tech., M.Tech., PG Diploma & Ph.D) have graduated from the department. All of them are very well placed and many have been occupying very high positions in various organizations throughout the world. The department is really very proud of its alumni.

The system of examinations and evaluation has undergone many changes. Curricula and syllabi have been revised many times. We changed from the age-old annual to the semester system. Laboratory work found a lot of emphasis in curricula. It was compulsory for all students to come to the laboratory classes with soldering iron and other tools. Now the emphasis is shifting more towards software, as per the needs of the day perhaps. Subjects like Acoustics, Telegraphy, Carrier Telephony, Radio / Broadcast Engineering, Network Synthesis, etc., have gone into oblivion. Of course, many new subjects have been introduced. Contact hours have been recently reduced to allow the students to have more time for self-study.

Technology Impact

Technology changes are reflected in the academics also. It is thrilling to remember that the students were having experiments with bulky vacuum tubes. Later tiny transistors came to the laboratory. Now IC's are the main devices. Problems and fears of electrical shocks, present with vacuum tubes do not bother them any more. Today we talk of VLSI. Mechanical calculators were used by teachers to tabulate the marks and do the calculations. Students used slide rules for numerical calculations. In fact, in some of the classes, bringing slide rules was compulsory. I remember the excitement when the department procured one electronic desktop calculator in the mid 70s. Soon the electronic calculators became cheaper and more functional than the slide rules. As a result, the latter vanished. Unfortunately very few students bring the calculators to the class as a matter of regular habit, nowadays, in spite of the convenience of calculators.

Transport and Communication facilities

Kharagpur lacked good transport and communication facilities. There were no local trains in those days and going to Calcutta was quite inconvenient. That is why perhaps more students were available in the campus during weekends and extra curricular activities had more attendance. With the introduction of EMU local trains there has been a decline in attendance in extra curricular activities and also in the classes particularly at the beginning and the end of the weeks. Telephone facilities were particularly non-existent. People used to say that it was faster to go to a place and come back than getting a telephone connection. Nowadays, we have much better communication facilities. Students from far-off places can communicate with their relations and feel comfortable.

Computerization, Networking and Office Automation

The availability of Xerox machines has also changed the working style considerably. The question papers used to be sent to the press for printing and as such the teachers had to set them even before the semester/session began. Subsequently, cyclostyling was introduced making life of the teachers little easier. Now we have Xerox machines for printing question papers. They are not only faster but quality is more elegant. In days before the Xerox machines came, the students had great inconvenience in getting their thesis typed. They had to go for carbon copy typing to make at the most 4 copies. Today writing the thesis using computers, printing it by lasers and getting multiple copies by Xerox machines, have really resulted in much better quality in less time. Office automation, computerization of many operations and networks have changed the work style considerably. Internet access and electronic library are new handy resources.

Concluding Remarks

This article is not intended to give any complete and factual account of the changes which have taken place over the past 36 years of my presence here. Going down the memory lane, I have just tried to recollect some of my observations and impressions over these years.

The improved infrastructure, better working conditions and more conducive study environment always bring enhanced performance at all fronts. Let us continue our journey and march ahead in pursuit of excellence!

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