This industry is unique in many ways, and not just for its different ways of using high-frequency signals. It is a small group in which friends and competitors alike keep in touch—and keep tabs on each other. And the industry is very much characterized by one important mid-year event: the IEEE International Microwave Symposium (IMS), held this year in Seattle, WA (June 2-7). Best described as a combined technical symposium and business exhibition, it is no exaggeration to say that which this is the one event where a majority of the field’s major players can be found within the confines of an exhibition hall.

For many RF/microwave companies, the dates for the annual IMS are among the first things marked onto a new calendar. The event usually takes place around the end of May or the beginning of June, so attendees develop something of an “instinct” to prepare for it—not just for their own company’s purposes but for their own personal requirements (educational interests, tracking down some old friends, finding out what competitors are doing, etc.).

Any IEEE event, of course, provides excellent educational opportunities for professional engineers in their respective sectors of knowledge. For this industry, and this technical conference, it is the IEEE Microwave Theory & Techniques Symposium (MTT-S) that provides more practical (and sometimes theoretical) technical information than even the most competitive engineering attendee can digest during the week. In addition, there are the several “smaller” conferences contained within the IMS week, including the two-day meeting of the Automatic RF Techniques Group (ARFTG) Traditionally, this latter event has featured an excellent collection of practical reports on test equipment and measurement applications.

Some years ago, ARFTG was known more as for its gripes about the shortcomings of commercial microwave vector network analyzers (VNAs), but it has since evolved into a technical but casual gathering of some of the best test professionals in the high-frequency industry. Attendance comes not just from commercial firms, but also from involved government organizations like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Although ARFTG sponsors joint technical presentations with the IEEE MTT-S during the week, the focused ARFTG sessions are scheduled for Friday, June 7, at the Grand Hyatt Seattle hotel, with a total of 15 oral presentations and about 25 panel sessions. From experience, both types of ARFTG technical sessions have served well when trying to learn how to extract the most performance from a piece of microwave test equipment.

 An exhibition floor such as the IMS’s, with about 500 industry companies represented, offers its own set of educational opportunities for evaluating new products and sampling the opinions of different visitors. In an industry such as this, relying so heavily on technology, the annual IMS provides the chance to size up many of the tools that are on that show floor and often needed to do business, such as computer-aided-engineering (CAE) software and test-and-measurement equipment. In particular, it is an opportunity to see if a certain version of a software package has been released, or if the latest model of a pricey piece of test equipment, like a VNA, is now available for sale.

The show floor will also once again be home to the Microwave Application Seminars (MicroApps) presented by exhibitors on their products or technologies. Visitors to the exhibition floor need not travel far to attend these 20-minute presentations, since they are held in the MicroApps Theater, right on the exhibition show floor.

Because of the importance of the annual IMS event, and to help with the “recovery process” following the show, Microwaves & RF will for the first time be assembling a lengthy show wrap-up in the July issue, to provide some of the wisdom of hindsight in assessing some of the new products and developments to come from the 2013 IMS. If Seattle is too far, make the July issue your destination instead.

Editor's Note: For more show coverage, be sure to visit Microwaves & RF's IMS 2013 page.