Logo: University of Southern California

Communication Sciences Institute (CSI) Celebrates 30th Birthday

At CSI's 30th anniversary celebration, keynote speaker Andrew Viterbi regales audience with an historical tour of the digital era.
By: Marc Ballon
December 04, 2012 —


Andrew Viterbi

Click image for keynote highlights

The digital era has dramatically transformed the world and will continue to culturally, socially and politically impact societies in novel and unexpected ways, Andrew Viterbi, the namesake of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, said Nov. 29 in a wide-ranging keynote address.

Speaking at the Communication Sciences Institute's (CSI) 30th Anniversary Conference and Celebration, Viterbi gave an overview of the digital revolution's major developments over the past century and a half. Milestones range from mathematician Charles Babbage's conception of the first digital computer in 1837 to the launch of the search engine in the 1990s to the advent of Apple Computer's iPhone, he said.

Digital technology has evolved to the point where it now occupies a primary role in people's lives, including cell phones, personal computers and the Internet.

"I can't think of a single activity in the human world that has not been impacted by the digital revolution," said Viterbi, creator of the Viterbi Algorithm that most digital mobile phone and digital satellite receivers use.

Viterbi, who earned his USC doctorate in 1962, has had a highly distinguished academic and professional career. Co-founder and retired vice chairman at Qualcomm Inc., he also served as a professor of engineering and applied science at UCLA and later UC San Diego. Additionally, Viterbi holds a USC Presidential Chair and a distinguished visiting professorship at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Viterbi was the first graduate student of the distinguished scholar Solomon Golomb (click here to read his introduction of Dr. Viterbi), one of the so-called "Magnificent Seven" who founded CSI in 1982. Four original members of that group - faculty members Golomb and Bob Scholtz and retired emeritus professors Charles Weber and Lloyd Welch - attended the CSI festivities that ran Nov. 29 to Nov. 30.

From the architectural design of the NASA space shuttle radar to enabling the clear transmission of video images from the Red Planet, CSI advances permeate our planet and beyond. CSI was a pioneer in the conversion from analogue to digital signals, the evolution from single links of communications to networks and modern wireless networks. Today, CSI is on the vanguard of new domains, from quantum computing to wireless health.

CSI faculty conducted the basic research behind the signals that are used in the GPS system and CDMA cell-phones- decades before these systems were conceived. Error correction codes that now protect every CD were viewed by many as a mathematical curiosity when originally developed by CSI faculty.

Research conducted at CSI in the late 1990s forms the basis of several advanced U.S. military modems. Similarly, signature sequences now used for the "3G" cellular communication standards are precisely those developed at CSI just a few years before the standards committee adopted them.

"CSI has been and continues being world-renowned for its basic research in communications," Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said in his speech. "If you use a device that communicates, it is almost certain that research at CSI played a significant role in how it was designed."