Talk about turning swords into plowshares.
A capacitor developed by San Diego-based Maxwell Technologies Inc. is being honored this week with a placement in the Space Technology Hall of Fame, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. The device, currently used in machines that revive victims of heart attacks, was originally developed for use in high-concept "space guns" that never came to fruition.
The so-called "heart defibrillator capacitor" stores electrical power in portable defibrillator devices, which then discharge the energy to heart attack victims to re-establish a normal heartbeat. Although the devices are used most commonly by paramedics and emergency room physicians, they recently have begun to be installed in airplanes, sports stadiums, shopping malls and health clubs.
The company also uses the capacitor in other products, including the trademarked PureBright system. PureBright uses a broad-spectrum light that is approximately 90,000 times brighter than sunlight to purify water used for sterilization and pharmaceutical products.
The device originally was developed in the mid-1980s under a contract with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The consortium recruited Maxwell Laboratories, as the company was then known, to develop a high-powered, thin-film capacitor to provide a pulse of power for space-based electromagnetic guns and accelerators that could be used in a missile-defense system.
In a statement, Maxwell interim CEO Tom Horgan said "With this prestigious honor, we are encouraged to continue transforming our space technology research and development into commercial products that enhance the quality of life."
During a ceremony on Thursday, the organization will honor Joel Ennis, John E. Gilbert, Kurt Haskell and Joseph A. Sevigny, four researchers from Maxwell who were key figures in developing the technology. Three other inductees include the Debakey blood pump by MicroMed Technology, a miniature accelerometer by Silicon Designs and an active-pixel sensor developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Photobit Corp.
The 10-year-old Space Technology Hall of Fame was formed by the U.S. Space Foundation in cooperation with NASA to give recognition to technologies originally developed for use in space but that have been adapted for use in commercial markets.
A piece of good news for local wireless firms: According to a recent report, the wireless phone business added a record 13.9 million new subscribers during 1998, an increase attributed primarily to falling prices for wireless services.
According to an industry survey by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), the United States alone had 69.2 million wireless users as of Dec. 31, 1998, a 25 percent increase from the previous year's record levels. At the same time, wireless carriers spent about $14.5 billion during the year to expand networks and build new systems, bringing the total investment in U.S. networks to $60.5 billion, the association said.
Even better news for local firms like Qualcomm, CommQuest and Denso Wireless is that a large portion of those new customers were for digital services. According to the report, the number of subscribers to digital services -- which offer greater clarity and more features than standard analog services -- nearly tripled to 18.3 million during the year. Digital users now make up about 27.8 percent of all U.S. wireless users, the CTIA said in its report.
The association attributed the growth in wireless users to the declines in prices for such services. According to the study, the average monthly wireless phone bill fell almost 8 percent in 1998 to $39.43. These prices bring wireless services more in line with traditional landline services, the association said.
"Consumers are beginning to look at it as an alternative to their landline, not just as a car phone," Tom Wheeler, CTIA's president and CEO, said in a statement.
Despite the drop in rates, overall industry revenues rose about 20 percent to $33.1 billion, according to the study.