George Devol - Biography - World War II

World War II

In 1939, Devol applied for a patent for proximity controls for use in laundry press machines, based on a radio frequency field. This control would automatically open and close laundry presses when workers approached the machines. Once the war began, Devol was advised by the patent office that his patent application would be placed on hold for the duration of the conflict.

Around the time the World War II began, Devol sold his interest in United Cinephone and approached Sperry Gyroscope to see if they were interested in his ideas on radar technology. He was retained by Sperry as manager of the Special Projects Department that developed radar devices and microwave test equipment.

Later in the war, he approached Auto-Ordnance Company regarding products that company could produce aside from their primary product line, which were Thompson submachine guns. Devol told them that the field of radar counter-measures was about to emerge as an urgently needed defense technology.

In 1943, he organized General Electronics Industries in Greenwich, Connecticut, as a subsidiary of the Auto Ordinance Corporation. General Electronics produced counter-radar devices until the end of the War. General Electronics was one of the largest producers of radar and radar counter-measure equipment for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Air Force and other government agencies. The company's radar counter-measure systems were on allied planes on D-Day.

Over a difference of opinion regarding the future of certain projects, Devol resigned from Auto Ordinance and joined RCA. After a short stint as eastern sales manager of electronics products, which he felt "wasn't his ball of wax", Devol left RCA to develop ideas that eventually led to the patent application for the first industrial robot. In 1946 he applied for a patent on a magnetic recording system for controlling machines and a digital playback device for machines.

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