Each year at this time, the high-frequency industry prepares for the ritual known as the Microwave Theory & Techniques Society (MTT-S) Symposium & Exhibition, this year scheduled for early June in Boston, MA. For most companies, it is not a question of whether to attend, but who to send. For some, it is an opportunity to unveil new products. For others, it is important to be there, among friends and competitors, and to assess the company's achievements compared to the hundreds of other companies in attendance.

Boston, of course, is a magnificent stage of the 2009 MTT-S. It is an area rich in this industry's tradition. Boston is still one of the more important regions for this industry, with a large concentration of diverse component suppliers offering everything from antennas and coaxial cables to waveguide. And previous MTT-S shows held in the area have drawn record crowds.

But for the companies coming to this year's MTT-S, the mood will be subdued at best. While business is still strong on the military side, commercial markets have weakened. And those companies that thought automotive electronics would be their salvation have suffered through one of most severe economic downturns in history. Some of the more forward-looking companies have diversified into new areas, such as medical electronics, but these are focused applications requiring specialized products, not unlike the military.

The MTT-S Symposium & Exhibition has traditionally served as a "half-way" mark for the year, a chance for each company to assess their business plans to this point. Many professionals like to walk the exhibit floor to size up different companies and their technological offerings, to see how their own company's capabilities stack up.

The event is also a meeting place for an aging community of RF/ microwave professionals. Many come to get reacquainted with old friends. Some use the MTT-S to meet face to face with e-mail acquaintances. Although the IEEE has long frowned upon using its venues as platforms to share resumes and search for new job opportunities, few could condemn any such actions at this year's show, given the current state of the economy and uncertainty of employment. Few companies have been immune to layoffs, and certainly one of the main topics of conversation at the Boston MTT-S will be job security and who has changed positions recently.

In any case, the MTT-S has always been a special event, a chance to spend time with old friends and share ideas with colleagues and competitors. It is also a chance for this industry to show that it will not go quietly in the night. It is an industry with talent and strength, and the MTT-S gives us all a chance to see those qualities in one place.