If you are like most people, you are never far away from your mobile devices. Many people always have their devices and their chargers. Life without these things seems almost impossible. It is hard to remember that it was not all that long ago that electronic products were not considered to be marketable. They were large, bulky and clumsy. The mass production of electronic products seemed like a far fetched idea. Enter the advent of new circuit board prototyping techniques like the printed circuit board. This was a game changer that changed everything. And it is all thanks to Paul Eisler and you may never have heard of him.
Eisler was board in 1907 in Vienna, Austria. When he graduated in 1930 from the Technische Universitandauml;t Wien (Vienna University of Technology) with a degree in engineering, he had already begun to invent new products. Eisler was Jewish and the 1930s were not a great time for Jewish people to live and work in Austria. When he could not find a job there, he went to Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1934 where he took a job working on radio electronic systems for trains. His boss would only pay him in grain so he left.
Eisler then went back to Austria where he was a writer for local newspapers. He also started a radio journal and started to study printing technology. In the 1930s, this was a growing technology. He began to envision how this process could be used to put electronic circuits onto a base that was insulated. Modern circuit board prototyping is based on those early ideas.
This is when hand soldered wires were used to connect all of the components that were used in electronic devices. There were often a lot of errors that were created in the process and the idea of automating it was out of the question. Modern ideas of circuit board prototyping would be based on these early ideas. Eisler dreamed of eliminating these errors and creating a process to make it all much faster. In his head, he had already thought up the idea of printed circuit boards that would make the process of circuit board prototyping a lot easier.
As things got worse for Jews in Austria because of the Nazis, Eisler began to see that he had to leave. He did that in 1936 he went to Britain. He was interned for a while by the English military because he was considered to be an enemy alien when World War II started. He was accepted into the country because he had filed for two patents in London. His
Eisler’s luck changed when his prototype printed circuit boards made their way to the United States Army who wanted to use them in communications and weapons systems that they were using to fight in World War II. Once the war ended, the use of the new technology was expanded. By 1948, all circuitry for airborne instruments used by the U.S. military had to be printed.
The patent application that was filed by Eisler in 1943 was made into three separate patents. After this invention, he continued to come up with new, revolutionary products in a number of fields. The U.S. Army continued to work to improve the circuit board prototyping that Eisler had begun. A few scientists received a patent of their own for their advancements in the process in 1956.
As much as Eisler contributed to medicine and other industries, it was his invention of the printed circuit board that had the most impact. Before that, electronics as mass produced commodities were simply not possible. Today, these circuit boards are the basis for all of the technology that most of us could not live without. Engineers and others continue to work to make them smaller, hold more and more components, do things faster and change the fundamental way the world works and communicates. Life in today’s world was totally changed by Paul Eisler and his idea for printed circuit boards all those years ago.
After receiving the Institution of Electrical Engineers’ Nuffield Silver Medal in 1992, Eisler died in London on October 26th.